Air Monitoring 

Air Monitoring

Is the public safe when near construction activity?

Yes. When real-time air monitors pick up an exceedance, the Agency is alerted. If contractors are unable to lessen their impact on the air within a specified time, work is shut down in that area until air quality returns to normal. These mitigative steps are taken before emissions reach an unsafe level.

Are people safe in their homes?

Yes. There are measures that are implemented to help control air emissions while work is taking place. We stop work if levels are coming close to established criteria for our site. This is done in real time at the fence line.

Explain the difference between real-time and ambient air monitoring.

Ambient Air monitoring measures trends in air qualities every sixth day. Real-time air monitoring measures air quality whenever work is taking place on the site. The samples are taken for 15-minutes, twice per hour of project activity. The real-time air monitors issue an alert if there is a chance of an exceedance of the established criteria. Work is stopped in the area before the contaminants in the air have an effect on surrounding communities.

What is the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency doing to improve the air monitoring around the cleanup site after there is an air exceedance?

The Sydney Tar Ponds Agency takes into account the results of the Ambient Air Monitors and is using the trends to help identify strategies to reduce the risk of exceedances in the areas surrounding the construction activity.

How do you plan to deal with airborne contaminants that are affecting the public?

The Sydney Tar Ponds Agency has a three-layer approach to protecting the community from airborne contaminants before they become a public health concern.
The first layer is within close proximity of workers on our site. This layer provides immediate and continuous air quality measurements that let workers know when they must modify their activity or change their personal protective equipment to continue their work safely.
The second layer is at the site's fence line where air quality measurements are taken in real time. This layer provides measurements, in 15-minute intervals, that convey information to a team of air specialists who gather air data while work is underway. Technicians place state-of-the-art air monitoring equipment both upwind and downwind of construction activities. This allows contractors to learn how their activities impact the air we breathe. Contractors are alerted when emissions are reaching a level that requires their attention. If contractors reach specific measurements, they are required to take steps to reduce the impact. If their efforts are ineffective, they are directed to stop work for the day. The Agency alerts the community each time there is a work stoppage.
The third layer is a series of monitors located throughout our community that provides the Agency with additional air quality information or data. Known as the Ambient Air Monitoring Network, the system is designed to measure the overall air quality in the community. This layer operates on the National Air Pollution Surveillance Program schedule adopted by Environment Canada and other regulatory bodies in Canada, and runs for a continuous 24-hour period every sixth day. This data is used to provide the public, regulators and the Agency with typical air quality data and to identify air quality trends in our community. Although any potential effects from project activities can be seen in some of the lab results, so too can a number of other activities that normally take place in residential, industrial and commercial areas surrounding the community monitors.
Given that there are so many contributing factors that impact the quality of the air in which we breathe, and because it is very important that the Agency reacts quickly to change activities before communities are affected, the Agency relies mainly on its real-time air monitors to protect the community from project activities.
When it comes to suppressing nuisance odours, contractors can minimize the impact by misting with water or by utilizing a foaming material that meets industry standards for addressing odours and dust.

How does the Agency report exceedances to the community when monitors detect chemicals or dust levels that exceed acceptable guidelines?

When real-time air monitors detect an exceedance and contractors are directed to stop work for the day, the Agency distributes a public notice to all Cape Breton media within one working day of the exceedance. In the Ambient Air Monitoring program, the data is collected on every sixth day and is sent to a lab for analysis. When the lab reports an exceedance to the Agency, the Agency distributes a public notice to all Cape Breton media within one working day of the reported exceedance.

Now that construction activity has picked up in the south pond, is the public safe with the odors we are smelling?

The Sydney Tar Ponds and Coke Oven Site cleanup project is making great progress on the remediation of useable land in the heart of Sydney, and we are looking forward to what the future is going to bring. Most notable of this progress is the solidification and stabilization (S/S) work currently taking place in the south Tar Pond. It is because of this work that you may have noticed odors in the air recently.

Although you can smell odors in the air, it is important to note that during all our construction activities, we are monitoring the air around the site in real-time. We have stringent air criteria and a sophisticated air monitoring program designed to protect workers on our site and residents in nearby neighbourhoods.

When our air monitors detect air quality concentrations approaching air criteria, mitigative measure are taken by the contractor. If the air monitors continue to detect this tread, work is shut down. Work does not continue until air levels return to acceptable levels.

On top of the already strict mitigative measures in place to combat dust and odor during the cleanup, the contactor has began an aggressive odor suppressing foaming plan in the south pond. There are different types of foam being used. If you live or work in near the south pond, you may notice a black latex like covering, a dark brown, or a white material on the sediment. These foams can last up to three to four weeks and help control the odors that will occur as remediation work on the Tar Ponds and Coke Ovens site continues.

The Sydney Tar Ponds Agency posts real time air monitoring results within a day and they can be viewed at Also on our website, you can sign up for our air monitoring report alerts, which will be sent to you via email.


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