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The Environment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002 introduced a statutory obligation on councils to carry out a review and assessment of their local air quality known as local air quality management (LAQM).
This involves measuring air pollution and trying to predict how it will change in the next few years. The aim of the review is to make sure that the national air quality objectives will be achieved throughout the UK by the relevant deadlines.
In Northern Ireland, the air quality objectives contained in the strategy are incorporated into the Air Quality Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003.
This provides the statutory basis for the system of LAQM and includes the following pollutants: fine particulates (PM10 and PM2.5), oxides of nitrogen, ozone, sulphur dioxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, benzene, one-two butadiene, carbon monoxide, lead and ammonia.
Where this assessment indicates that an air quality objective is unlikely to be met in any part of its district the local authority must declare an air quality management area (AQMA) and prepare an Action Plan and further assessment of the level of exceedance and indicate how the objective is to be met.
The Review and Assessment Process requires us to produce every three years, an updating and screening assessment (USA). This involves an examination of traffic volumes, new sources of pollution and monitoring data and compare these to national objectives for specific pollutants. Where the USA indicates that any of these objectives will be exceeded then we are required to produce a second report called a detailed assessment. The detailed assessment uses monitoring and/or modelling data to provide an accurate assessment of whether the objective (pollutant) in question will be exceeded.
In addition to the USA and detailed assessment, we are also required to produce a progress report in years when the USA is not undertaken. The progress report details current conditions and examines any changes in the Borough that may affect air pollution levels.
If the detailed assessment shows that an area definitely exceeds an air quality objective the Council is required to declare an air quality management area (AQMA). It is obviously important to identify the source of the pollution within an AQMA and how much of an improvement in pollution levels are required so that we can develop an Action Plan to show how we are going to improve the air quality within an AQMA to meet the national objectives.
Review and Assessment Reports including Air Quality Management Areas and information on air quality monitoring within Mid and East Antrim Borough Council can be obtained by accessing the Northern Ireland Air Quality website.