Unit was purchased eight years ago, but remains in a box as governmental agencies wrangle over how to install it
As four government agencies wrangle, a high-tech air monitor has sat unused in a box for eight years.
The federal Port of Vancouver bought the $75,000 Air Pointer monitor in 2014. In 2018, the Port gave the monitor to Metro Vancouver, a regional body that wants to install it in MacLean Park in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood.
You are reading: Red tape snarls air quality monitor for Strathcona, purchased eight years ago, still not installed
But four years later, it still hasn’t gone up. Dan Jackson of the Strathcona Residents Association has been trying to find out why.
“They bought it, but the Vancouver park board said ‘no, you can’t put it in MacLean Park’ and the City of Vancouver is saying ‘no, you can’t put it along the transportation corridor,’” he said.
“It’s just bureaucracy grinding things to a halt by people just saying no, coming up with reasons not to use it.”
The monitor is designed to measure things like sulphur dioxide, fine particulate matter and nitrogen oxide.
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Strathcona is an obvious place for one.
“We’ve got a container port right next to the neighbourhood that’s got thousands of trucks and trains going in and out every day,” Jackson explains.
“And that port is doubling its size. So the port has this environmental team that sets up monitors in different places.”
In an email, Metro Vancouver explained that the plan is “to install a pole-mounted station with a small footprint to ensure high data quality as well as to prevent tampering.”
In November 2019, it got a site licence agreement from the Vancouver park board to install it next to the MacLean Park field house, and in 2020 and 2021 “designed, completed engineering, and fabricated the pole for the Air Pointer.”
It also completed detailed drawings for the building permit application to City of Vancouver.
But then Metro determined “a larger foundation and footprint were needed in order not to disturb the field house foundation.” When it went to the park board to request a larger setback from the building, the park board requested alternatives.
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So it was back to the drawing board.
Metro has put together a new design, which it hopes will be approved by the park board and the city. If it is, Metro’s Roger Quan says the monitor could be in use early in 2023.
One of the monitors is in Pandora Park in east Vancouver. It’s by a field house, just like in MacLean Park, and seems quite unobtrusive — it’s basically a 4.5-metre high pole with a box and something that looks like an antenna sticking out the top. The footprint is very small.
The idea of installing a series of air quality monitoring stations in east Vancouver was recommended in a 2012 study on the air around Burrard Inlet.
“There’s a lot of different sources in the Burrard Inlet area, from trucks to rail to industry to buildings, float planes, a real potpourri of different sources,” said Quan, the director of air quality and climate change at Metro Vancouver.
“The idea is to determine a monitoring baseline, to determine what the levels were in 2012, identify what the key sources were, and inform actions to clean them up.”