Researchers at Vancouver Island University (VIU) are working with the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) to monitor air quality in the Alberni Valley.
The research project started in 2020 with the monitoring of greenhouse gases at the Alberni Valley Landfill. This project, funded by ACRD landfill operations and the VIU Regional Initiatives Fund, allowed the VIU team to use their state-of-the-art mobile mass spectrometry lab to survey the landfill and install air quality sensors.
The information provided by VIU researchers will help the regional district pinpoint where the methane is coming from and make decisions on how to mitigate it.
“It’s a fairly small landfill,” explained Paulo Eichelberger, solid waste manager with the ACRD, which makes it an “ideal” candidate to measure the impact of methane on the airshed. “We want to measure the environmental impact.”
Erik Krogh, director of VIU’s Applied Environmental Research Laboratories and a chemistry professor, said carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas discussed when it comes to climate change; however, methane is the second-largest contributor to global warming.
“Every kilogram of methane in the atmosphere is equivalent to 80 kilograms of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period,” said Krogh. “It also has a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere, so mitigating methane releases helps mitigate warming more quickly.”
This first phase of the research project ended earlier this year, but the next phase will paint a bigger picture of the entire Alberni Valley airshed, said Eichelberger. “We want to get a sense of what the airshed looks like and what else contributes to the airshed, other than the landfill,” he added.
The research will provide “valuable” data about how air quality varies over time and space and will promote public awareness of the airshed and the impacts of climate change.
The project will run for another year before researchers will report their findings to the landfill operators, the regional district and the Port Alberni Air Quality Council.
“Then we’ll assess next steps,” said Eichelberger.