Gathering Data
Environmental Monitoring in the Lakeland Region
Michael Bisaga, LICA Airshed Zone

The air we breathe, the soil nourishing our crops, the water we drink. These are the essential elements of life. In Alberta, their availability is so ingrained that we often take them for granted. Lakeland Industry and Community Association (LICA) plays a crucial role in monitoring these key environmental factors.

Our roots began in 2000 as an Alberta Synergy Group from Bonnyville, Alberta. As a partnership between community, industry, and government, our goal was to gather and share environmental research relevant to our region. In 2003, our Regional Environmental Air and Soil Monitoring Committee created a 21-station passive monitoring network. A few years later, the LICA Airshed Zone was born as the seventh such organization in Alberta.

LICA’s passive monitoring stations generally follow a 3 x 3 township grid pattern. We analyze samples from these stations every two months, and our researchers examine long-term spatial patterns in air quality and acid deposition using data from the passive monitoring program. We expanded our original 21-station network in 2006 with new monitoring locations in oil sands producing areas. Ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, and hydrogen sulphide are sampled in the passive monitoring network.

With the addition of continuous monitoring in 2006, our air-quality monitoring program began operating round-the-clock. Our Cold Lake station now reports on the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) and produces near real-time measurements 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, and 365 days per year. Over the years, LICA’s continuous monitoring network has expanded to permanent stations southwest of St. Lina (St. Lina station), and near oil sands operations, southwest of Marie Lake (Maskwa station). In 2009, we added flexibility to our program with a portable air monitoring system (PAMS) that’s dispatched to communities throughout the region.

Portable-Station

LICA’s PAMS station monitoring air quality in the Elk Point area.

We started to sample for volatile organic compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons at our Cold Lake and PAMS stations in 2009. To align with the National Pollutant Surveillance (NAPS) program, our researchers collect 24-hour integrated samples every six days. We can detect over 100 compounds with these methods. Special equipment allows our team to automatically collect additional samples at our PAMS station when a high concentration of hydrocarbons is detected.

Sampled on a staggered four-year cycle, we established soil acidification sampling plots in Moose Lake Provincial Park (2010), Whitney Lakes Provincial Park (2011), and southwest of Tucker Lake (2012). LICA has also sampled a small set of acid sensitive lakes throughout the region. Our soil and lake acidification monitoring programs enhance sampling by Alberta Environment and Parks, local industry, and the Alberta Lake Management Society.

Soil-Sampling

Soil Scientist Dr. Larry Turchenek collects samples at the Moose Lake soil acidification monitoring plot.

LICA’s monitoring network has evolved over time to meet changing regulatory and local stakeholder needs, while maintaining a high degree of scientific rigor. LICA will adopt new methods and deploy new, proven monitoring technologies when needed. This ensures the highest quality of data is collected to meet the needs of our partners and members.

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Click here to take a closer look at our monitoring network.

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