Thursday, 6 October 2005
Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government
Question 231: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his planned timetable for the adoption of Directive 2002/3/EC dealing with ozone in ambient air; the results of tests for the past number of years; his views on the trend, frequency, distribution of tests and readings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27256/05]
The Ozone in Ambient Air Regulations 2004, which transpose Directive 2002/3/EC, were signed on 11 February 2004. Under these regulations, the directive is being implemented and enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency. This includes responsibility for ensuring, or causing to be ensured, that ozone monitoring equipment is accurate and appropriately situated.
The 2004 regulations require the agency routinely to inform the public, on at least a daily basis and, wherever appropriate and practicable, on an hourly basis, of the concentrations of ozone in ambient air. The agency is doing this, inter alia, through its air quality website which was launched in January 2004.
Also under the regulations, where the information threshold, 180 μg/m, or the new more stringent alert threshold, 240 μg/m, is exceeded, or where practicable is predicted to be exceeded, the agency is required to make certain information publicly available as soon as possible and by appropriate means. The information to be made available includes the exceedance, its location, start time, duration, forecasted changes in concentrations, the type of population groups potentially at risk, possible health effects and recommended conduct, and preventive action to reduce pollution or exposure to it.
Due to Ireland's geographical location and meteorological circumstances, ozone pollution has not been a significant problem here. No exceedances of the 180 μg/m; information threshold were reported by the EPA on behalf of Ireland during the last eight summer seasons from 1997 to 2004 when hot weather conditions and the presence of ozone precursors which chemically react in sunlight caused ozone pollution episodes in many parts of mainland Europe.
I understand from the agency that in 2003 one relatively minor exceedance of the population information threshold was recorded at a concentration level of 181.2 μg/m. This occurred on 18 April, Good Friday, between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. and lasted for one hour. Owing to a problem earlier in the day with the data transmission element of the agency's automatic monitoring system, this specific concentration level was not notified to Met Éireann for public information broadcast. When this anomaly came to light the next day following contact by Met Éireann, the agency rectified the problem immediately. Given the relatively minor nature of the exceedance, its short duration, and the maintenance of subsequent readings below 180 μg/m, the agency did not ask Met Éireann to issue any public information alert as the exceedance had happened the previous day.