Review of Ambient Air Quality Monitoring in Ireland

Prepared in response to commitment in Programme for Governmnet to "Expand the network of air quality monitoring stations to improve national coverage"

Summary: Estimates of resources required are not included in this version to avoid prejudicing future tenders.

Published: 2010


Pages: 65

Filesize: 763KB

Format: pdf

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Overall Recommendations

EU Air Quality Directives

Monitoring and Reporting

There are adequate air quality monitoring stations in Ireland to cover the population and to meet the majority of the requirements of the CAFÉ Directive. Monitoring sites are chosen to be representative of population exposure to ambient air pollution. 

There are some gaps in the monitoring requirements under CAFE. The current air quality IT system requires upgrading to meet the reporting and information requirements of the CAFÉ Directive which will be mandatory from 2013. It is recommended that at least two additional PM10 monitors capable of providing real-time data are installed to further improve on public information.

Quality Assurance and Quality Control

It is essential that any monitoring done under the requirements of the Directive be of the highest quality and improvements in the QA/QC system currently in place will help ensure this.  This would include increased intercomparisons between all organisations involved in monitoring in Ireland as well as the new quality requirements of the CAFE Directive which are implementation of CEN standards across the network and accreditation of the National Reference Laboratory for air quality in the EPA.


The most effective way for Ireland to improve on assessment of population exposure to air pollution is through developing a robust air quality model for the country.  .  Development of a model and detailed emission inventory will require a cross-agency approach.  While a model is desirable for improving spatial coverage of air quality information, developing air quality forecasting capabilities and assessing the impact of measures to improve air quality, it is not a mandatory requirement under the CAFÉ Directive.

 European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme Monitoring

 While not a mandatory requirement, EMEP monitoring should continue long-term at the current five locations to provide good spatial coverage for monitoring transboundary pollutants. The stations should be managed as part of the national air quality monitoring network to ensure adequate QA/QC and reporting of monitoring results.  This requires changing the source of funding from the current short-term research contracts to long-term committed resources.

Co-ordination of EMEP in Ireland should be assigned to one organisation with continued involvement of all current stakeholders.

The main EMEP stakeholders should draw up an EMEP Monitoring Plan for Ireland 2012-2020.

Role of Local Authorites and Other Bodies

It is beneficial to the national air quality monitoring network to have a variety of organisations involved.  Some local authorities and other bodies have significant expertise in the area and should be supported in continuing their monitoring programmes.  Local authorities who wish to begin monitoring should be encouraged and supported. 

Bituminous Coal Restricted Areas

The ban on the sale of smoky coal has reduced levels of PM10 in those areas where it applies by 15-20%. The ban is less effective when the restricted area is small because bituminous coal can be easily sourced outside the ban area and used within the ban area. It is recommended to extend the ban to other areas to reduce levels of PM10 further.

Particulate matter levels would also be reduced by using more efficient combustion methods for solid fuel and by switching from solid fuel to other fuels. It is recommended that any measures to reduce levels of particulate matter consider these options.

The impact on air quality should be assessed before any climate change mitigation measures that encourage the use of solid fuel are implemented.

Air Quality Monitoring of an Emergency Event

The volcanic ash emergency in 2010 showed the necessity of a network capable of monitoring air quality during an emergency event. This should be based on automatic particulate matter monitors in the national air quality network with adequate remote communications and QA/QC. The current network of 5 monitors is not adequate to provide national monitoring of an emergency situation. At least 3 additional stations are required, one in each of the south, south-east and north-west region.

Operators of automatic PM monitors not currently in the national air monitoring network should be encouraged to join in order to increase the number of monitors that can be used in an emergency. Data from monitors which are not in the national air monitoring network should not be used because the accuracy cannot be verified. The possibility of an all-Ireland emergency network should be explored with the authorities in Northern Ireland.