Air quality monitoring and forecasting to provide transparent and real-time information
The purpose of environmental quality monitoring is to help the public understand the quality of surrounding environments. Air quality monitoring stations in Taiwan form a network that keeps watch of air quality in different places and announces forecasts. To provide more detailed information, since 1998 forecasts have included UV readings to help notify the public of times to take appropriate precautions.
To date, the EPA has established a total of 77 air quality monitoring stations. Results from these are available on the EPA website in forms of real-time air quality information as well as complete monitoring data throughout the years. Types of monitoring stations are listed as follows:
1. General air quality monitoring stations: 60 sites These are set in densely populated areas, areas that may be subject to high pollution, or areas that reflect the air quality distribution of a larger region. These stations provide data on the air quality of people’s living environments. For instance, data from stations in county/city districts indicate concentrations of various representative pollutants to which the local population is exposed.
2. Industrial air quality monitoring stations: Five sites in Toufen, Xianxi, Mailiao, Taixi, and Cianzhen. These are set in windy areas downwind from industrial parks to help better understand the impacts of industrial pollutants. Locations are densely populated and encounter potentially high concentrations of pollutants. Stations are located in immediately adjacent downwind areas if the apparent pollution sources are at a lower height, and several kilometers downwind if the emission sources are high smokestacks.
3. Traffic air quality monitoring stations: Six sites in Fongshan, Sanchong, Zhongli, Yonghe, Fuxing, and Datong Established in areas of heavy traffic to measure the air quality to which pedestrians are exposed. Monitoring data is used to evaluate effectiveness of controls on vehicle emissions, as well as vehicle pollutants to which pedestrians are exposed.
4. National park air quality monitoring stations: Two sites in Hengchun and Yangming Set at appropriate sites in national parks to help understand current air quality conditions and predict future trends within the protected zones. Locations are away from major roads, parking lots, or other disruptions caused by pollution such as sources of burning.
5. Background air quality monitoring stations: Five sites in Wanli, Guanyin, Sanyi, Qiaotou, and Fugueijiao. (Wanli and Sanyi serve simultaneously as general stations) Set in areas where there is relatively little pollution, or in windy upwind areas in total quality control zones. These monitor the amount of pollutants brought by prevailing winds. They are located away from the impacts of pollution sources, to measure general air quality conditions and determine whether there are transboundary pollutants from outside Taiwan.
6. Special monitoring stations
Other special monitoring stations include:
● Mobile monitoring stations: six monitoring vehicles
● Photochemical monitoring stations: nine sites
● Research stations: Lulin Background Monitoring Station in Yushan National Park
Auxiliary weather facilities include:
● Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar): One in National Central University in Zhongli, Taoyuan
In 2017, the EPA finished integrating information and services of 211 monitoring stations in total, including 316 sets of automated smokestack exhaust monitoring data collected from 107 factories. The purpose is to keep large smokestack emissions under close watch and build a complete emission database in order to effectively monitor total emissions and ensure air quality
Water monitoring results as significant references for prevention strategies
Besides monitoring air quality, which has the most immediate public impact, the EPA also conducts regular sampling and monitoring of water quality in rivers, reservoirs, groundwater, seas and so on. It aims to understand current water pollution conditions and their year to year changes, data which serves as references for water pollution prevention strategies. Monitoring results are published in annual reports for public evaluation as well as used in regular analysis of water quality trends for public inquiry.
Monitoring results help government agencies that make decisions and the general public to understand current water quality conditions and trends. They also help with the detection, prediction, and response to problems that occur suddenly, as well as the mapping out of long-term pollution prevention strategies. Based on the open data principle, all water monitoring data is published on the EPA’s Environmental Water Quality Information website (http://wq.epa.gov.tw/) for public inquiry and downloading.
Improvement of environmental monitoring capacity
The EPA’s current efforts to enhance its environmental monitoring capacity include:
A . Development and establishment of the comprehensive Environmental Quality Sensing IoT
In the four-year period 2017-2020, the EPA will improve air quality monitoring sensors, develop water quality monitoring sensors, establish a sensor testing and certification platform and system, and expand sensor spots for air quality and farmland pollution. Other operations include integrating systems of monitoring stations and sensor spots, as well as constructing a smart environmental monitoring data center and a universal application service and integration platform. It is expected to reach the following goals:
(1) Increase data precision for environmental controls and provide correct information to meet local needs.
(2) Provide more detailed forecasts down to town and district levels, so that pollution and weather conditions can be precisely predicted in order to carry out emergency emission reductions.
(3) Improve pollution controls to enhance enforcement of regulations and maintain a better environment using IoT technology to trace times and sources of pollution hotspots.
Since the project began in 2017, the main focus has been establishing infrastructure and operation systems, first setting 500 air quality sensing spots in the central region. Other work involved development of various technology, operation testing, and data analysis.
B. Tightening air quality monitoring
The EPA keeps 77 air quality monitoring stations nationwide running smoothly and conducts manual monitoring of PM2.5 at 31 stations. With usability higher than 96% after quality assurance and control (QA/ QC), monitoring data is available online in real time, and AQI and PM2.5 values for the next three days are forecast three times daily. An early alarm mechanism is in place to remind people to take precautions against transboundary pollutants (usually sand storms and smog from China). Furthermore, national air quality monitoring resources are integrated to account for air quality in industrial zones and smokestack emissions as pollution sources, in order to achieve better data disclosure and wider public supervision.
The EPA also has also implemented a demonstration plan on the smart urban and rural sensor IoT, using IoT technology and developing air quality microsensors, while conducting small-scale monitoring for specific pollution sources. Citizens are actively participating in monitoring to reduce occurrences of pollution and to safeguard public health.
2. Promoting environmental data integration
(1) Integrating environmental resources and data
In its Environmental Cloud plan, the EPA has combined environmental data for atmosphere, water, earth, forests, and ecosystems and developed a diverse information service. Through the data exchange system, over 1,933 databases from central and regional authorities were integrated and shared between 2013 and December 2016.
The EPA has also expanded the capacity of its shared sensor data platform to provide better integrated environmental information. Real-time information from micro-scaled air quality monitoring projects conducted by citizens is included, such as social platforms established by non-governmental organizations. Examples of technology used include the Location Aware Sensing System (LASS), consisting of opensource, not-for-profit environmental sensors, as well as open data platforms such as AirBox used in some counties/cities. All greatly assist the public to obtain the most local environmental data.
(2) Enhancing open data platforms
In compliance with the government’s Open Data policy, a total of 980 databases have been opened, reaching the goal of p 960 databases in 2016. Availability of environmental data is enhanced with over 1.8 million references and downloads as well as value-adding uses by over 600,000 users. Items available in open databases have increased nearly fourfold since the platform established in 2013 in order to build an information service cloud.
(3) Improving the Environmental Message App
The launch of the Environmental Message service is a model demonstration of the application of open data. People can check real-time monitoring information, historic data and forecasts via control boards and images. The app also sends out warnings and notifications on air quality and other information. More than 260,000 people downloaded the app in 2017, with up to 20,000 users during daily peak hours and over a million views per month. It has become an indispensable environmental information service in the daily lives of users.
For its plan in 2018, the EPA will strive toward the following directions:
(1) Continuing to implement the New Generation Environmental Quality Monitoring and Testing Development Plan
(2) Continuing to establish the foundation of the Environmental Quality Sensing IoT
(3) Expanding the environmental resource and information service platform to enhance service efficiency and application values
(4) Providing comprehensive information services
(5) Strengthening data evaluation and project management in the Environmental Sensing Data Center and integrating nationwide air quality data
All latest environmental monitoring data and results are provided by the EPA via channels such as the internet and mass media in real time. Future efforts will focus on continuing to integrate environmental databases with environmental geographic information system (GIS) and offering support to policy-making processes. Operations will also include integrating various administrative systems, promoting online government operations, utilizing information technology, and assisting innovative services and implementation of environmental policies.
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)