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Equipment monitors air quality in Powell River

Resident purchases unit that provides tracking
PROVIDES UPDATES: Terry Noreault has installed an air quality monitor just below his roofline to provide readouts of air quality in the city. While some parts of British Columbia have had unhealthy air quality during this wildfire season, Powell River’s air quality has been good.

There are now two air quality monitors in Powell River, with interested people able to get readouts from the stations on a website.

Terry Noreault has purchased a unit that measures air quality from a company called IQAir. He said it measures three sizes of fine particulate and provides an air quality measurement. It also provides temperature and humidity.

“You mount it outside in a protected place, not near sources of pollutants such as an exhaust for the stove or near a barbecue,” said Noreault. “It should also not be mounted under trees because they take out fine particulate. You typically mount the unit under the eaves of the house.”

Noreault said once the installation is complete, a photograph is taken and submitted to IQAir and they monitor the results. He said if they are happy with the results, they post them online.

There is also monitoring equipment at James Thomson Elementary School. Noreault said it is good to have more than one sensor in the community. The James Thomson unit had been inoperative for half a year but is functioning again, he said.

One of the reasons Noreault installed the equipment is because his wife has diminished lung capacity, so she likes to know what the air quality is. It helps her determine whether she is going to wear a mask or go outside.

He said last year, she used results from the James Thomson station, but after it was not properly functioning, Noreault said he decided to buy a unit and install it. He’s had it up for four weeks and it took a couple of weeks for IQAir to accept the results.

In trying to find the right equipment, Noreault said he conducted a search and was looking for ones that were the most recognized and most user-friendly for installation.

“A lot of them are designed for industrial settings, so they come as bare boxes to be hooked into an industrial network,” said Noreault. “This one just hooks up to my WiFi. It was pretty easy to install. It’s a well-respected company for the quality of the instrumentation.

“They also run this network where they collect data from all of these sensors worldwide and publish it.”

Noreault said he has been a moderator for Joseph McLean’s COVID-19 Facebook page and McLean invited him to moderate the wildfire list, which also helped prompt him to purchase the equipment.

“I was helping Joseph with that and I saw there was no air quality monitor here, except for the satellite one, which doesn’t track that well with what’s really happening,” said Noreault. “I said, well, it would be nice to have one. I could mount one and I have a good location.”

Noreault said he’s pleased with the results and the monitor is pointing to really good air quality in Powell River right now.

“The wind has been very favourable and we’ve had a number of days where the air quality is zero, which is the best score,” said Noreault. “Zero to 50 is good, and we are typically running under 10, so it’s nice to see how good our air quality is for fine particulates.

“When you look at the Interior, you see some measurements over 300, which, on the scale, is called hazardous. It’s very high risk and everyone should avoid exercise and remain indoors. When you see ours, it basically says, leave your windows open and you can exercise outside.”

Noreault said he’s pleased he’s acquired the equipment, is able to see the air quality, and is not having to guess whether the air is healthy or not.

To receive updates on Powell River’s air quality, go to