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Air quality for industrial facilities is primarily managed through environmental assessment, approvals and enforcement. The elements of industrial air quality management in Alberta are described below.
Approvals, Inspections and Enforcement
Alberta government approvals cover all phases of an industrial operation:
These integrated approvals look at all environmental concerns, including:
- Decommissioning a facility
- Hazardous and solid wastes
- Industrial wastewater
- Sanitary sewage/waterworks
Codes of Practice are used to regulate less complex activities. The code is enforceable and specifies all relevant environmental requirements.
Approvals can be issued for up to 10 years. The approvals process allows for public input and has an appeal mechanism through the Environmental Appeals Board.
Approvals issued under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act incorporate:
- Environmental monitoring and reporting requirements, including emission inventory data
- Operational procedures and parameters required to minimize emissions
- Required pollution control equipment/technologies and allowable emission sources
- Source emission limits
- Stack design criteria based on plume dispersion modelling to ensure that air quality remains below ambient air quality objectives
Determining emission limits for a given facility depends on the existing air quality, ambient air quality objectives and emission standards. Also considered are local meteorology and terrain, and surrounding emission sources.
These emission standards can be based on the nature of the air contaminant and its potential health and environmental effects; the nature of the industrial process and the appropriate air pollution control technology.
The compliance inspection program helps ensure that facilities meet the requirements of their Alberta government approvals or registrations.
Department inspectors can review and inspect all aspects of any facility's approval or registration, in one visit. The focus is on identifying and correcting areas of non-compliance. Significant non-compliance can result in enforcement action.
To address infractions of environmental laws, the department can issue warning letters, tickets, enforcement orders, or administrative penalties. The department can also prosecute, request/enforce court orders and cancel an approval.
Generally, companies experiencing difficulties in meeting Alberta government approval requirements voluntarily take appropriate action to achieve compliance.
Industrial Air Reporting
Reporting of ambient air monitoring data and pollutant emissions in Alberta is mandated in individual operating approvals and by the province's Air Monitoring Directive.
Industry is required to submit monitoring reports to the Alberta government. Reporting requirements are specified in approvals and vary depending on the substance, size and nature of the facility.
The reports summarize ambient and source monitoring data and provide information on the quality assurance and quality control measures performed to ensure accurate data.
Reporting Requirements and Guidelines
Details on the reporting requirements of any individual approval may be found by using the authorization/approval viewer.
The Air Monitoring Directive contains reporting guidelines for industrial approval holders in Alberta. For more information, see:
Immediate reporting of certain types of environmental incidents is required under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act and its associated Release Reporting Regulation.
Releases causing air quality and odour complaints or measured exceedances of the Alberta Ambient Air Quality Objectives and Guidelines must be reported. For more information on how these complaints and reports are handled, see:
- Air Quality and Odour Response Process (PDF, 185 KB)
Industry Compliance Monitoring
Approvals and codes generally specify monitoring requirements that carry the force of law. The intent is to require monitoring of all emission sources of environmental significance and the components of the environment that could be impacted by the industry. Compliance monitoring is considered part of the environmental cost of an industry doing business in Alberta and is consistent with the "polluter pays" principle.
Approvals for large industrial operations may include the monitoring of:
- Air emissions
- Ambient air
- Drinking water
- Environmental effects
- Hazardous wastes
- Operation of pollution control technologies
- Reclamation activities
- Soil; treated sewage releases
- Wastewater and potentially contaminated stormwater releases
- Water quality
Industry compliance monitoring:
- Assesses the impact of releases on the environment
- Characterizes complex emissions to determine potential environmental impacts
- Ensures that pollution control technologies are operating effectively
- Provides an early warning system for potential contamination issues
- Provides data for tracking trends in environmental performance and effects
- Provides information for provincial and national emission inventories used in environmental management
In these ways, compliance monitoring provides essential information on the environmental performance and impact of industrial operations.
Specific Monitoring Requirements
Monitoring requirements are tailored for each industrial operation based on the types and quantities of emission and may vary within industry sectors.
Monitoring requirements in approvals and codes specify the following:
- Analytical method(s)
- Data recording, record keeping and reporting
- Frequency of monitoring or sampling
- Monitoring method(s)
- Monitoring or sampling locations
- Parameters measured
- Type of sample
In general, the larger the emission source or the greater the potential for environmental impact, the more frequent and detailed the compliance monitoring requirements will be.
Quality Assurance/Quality Control
Results of compliance industry monitoring are important to the Alberta government, as they verify the general environmental performance of an industrial operation. The results also help the department assess compliance with specific performance requirements. Government and industry both have a stake in ensuring the reliability of compliance monitoring information.
It should be noted that it is a serious offence to fail to provide monitoring information or to provide false information.
The Alberta government undertakes the following quality assurance and quality control activities related to compliance monitoring data:
- Establishes specific monitoring protocols, for example, the Alberta Stack Sampling Code and Air Monitoring Directive
- Inspects industries
- Reviews compliance monitoring data for anomalies or inconsistencies
- Reviews quality assurance/control procedures
- Takes action immediately to address monitoring reliability issues including enforcement action if appropriate
- Undertakes monitoring programs to verify industry monitoring
- Undertakes spot audits of industry monitoring
Source Emission Monitoring
Approvals have two types of in-stack emission monitoring requirements. Manual stack surveys are usually short duration tests. Effluent samples are collected from the stack by trained personnel in accordance with the Alberta Stack Sampling Code (periodically updated).
Facilities that emit large volumes of substances must carry out continuous emission monitoring with proven technology. The monitoring instruments are permanently installed on the stack and measurements are carried out year-around in accordance with the Alberta Continuous Emission Monitoring System code.
Volatile organic compounds can be emitted from leaking process equipment and piping. These are commonly termed fugitive emissions. Industries, especially organic chemical plants, are required through their approvals to implement monitoring that will detect leaks of such compounds. Prompt repairs or replacement are required and must be reported to the Alberta government.
Where emission rates are small and/or field test methods do not exist, source emissions can be estimated by mass balances, with periodic testing of the concentration of pollutants. This information may be subject to reporting to the Alberta government.
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