4 The record articles

Is Your Ambient Monitoring Station Up-To-Date?

Posted: October 8th, 2019

Authors: Dustin S. 

What is the current status of your ambient monitoring station?  Have your instruments been audited recently?  Have the instruments been recalibrated and recertified?  Is calibration and re-certification still supported on the instruments you have by the manufacturer or whoever you purchased them from?

The questions asked are to help you make sure you are doing everything necessary with your ambient monitoring station so that you continue to receive quality data.

What are you measuring?

Ambient monitoring stations can ‘span’ from measuring atmospheric pollutants [i.e., particulate matter (PM), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX), and volatile organic carbons (VOC)] to meteorological [i.e., wind speed, wind direction, temperature, pressure, etc.] data.  Different systems require different levels of calibration and re-certification criteria.

This blog focuses on the status of meteorological monitoring stations.  However, please keep in mind, many of the same practices and resolutions to ensure quality data can be applied to ambient pollutant monitoring systems.  If you are curious as to how or why a meteorological station may be beneficial to maintain at your facility, please reference Dayna Pelc’s blog “Who Needs Real-time Onsite Meteorological Data?  You Do, and Here’s Why” published in July 2019.

Do you have certifiable instrumentation?

Operating certifiable instrumentation is the first step in ensuring quality data is generated at your facility.  If meteorological data is being collected at your facility, do you have one of those white/gray plastic, backyard ‘all-in-one’ weather stations?  If so, it is likely that the data you are collecting is not up to the U.S. EPA standards and may not be reliable to support defense of your facility’s emissions should an accidental emissions release occur or an odor complaint be filed.  A certifiable instrument, or suite of instruments, allow facilities to utilize actual ambient meteorological data from the site for utilities such as air quality modeling, ambient pollutant monitoring programs (similar to the recent SO2 DRR Rule), automated stormwater event monitoring, and many more!

If your facility does have certifiable instrumentation, do you have an audit, recalibration, or recertification plan?  The U.S. EPA has set guidelines for auditing (checks to ensure instruments are functioning correctly), recalibration (adjustments made to instrument to adjust for drift or bias), and recertifying (sending instrument away to be tested in a laboratory against stringent standards) instruments.  Audits generally occur twice per year for meteorological instrumentation with recalibrations occurring when audits indicate that a recalibration is required.  Recertification is recommended either annually or biennially based on the type of instrument.  The U.S. EPA Handbook for Meteorological Monitoring Guidance requires specific quality assurance/quality control procedures on a routine basis to ensure the data meets the standards of reliability and accuracy.  The procedures include: calibration of instrumentation, site inspections, data screening, data validation, and preventive maintenance.

Do you have spare instrumentation?

Spare instrumentation is a good thing to have on hand for meteorological monitoring stations.  Meteorological instrumentation is not cost prohibitive to invest in a spare set.  The spare instrumentation can be utilized for cases of recalibration or recertification.  Implementing a simple process of rotating primary and backup instruments assures that the inventory of instrumentation on a meteorological monitoring station are functioning properly and are being recertified on a regular schedule.  Spare instruments can also be utilized to maximize the collection of quality data.  For example, if an analyzer fails (i.e., is unable to collect quality data) such as malfunction due to lightning, power surge, or mishandling or failure of an audit, quality assured data will be unavailable until repair or replacement is made.  If a spare analyzer is on site, it can be put into service and collecting quality assured data more quickly than sending an instrument back to the manufacturer for repair.

Are there like-for-like replacement instrumentations available in case of a failing instrument?

Technology is rapidly advancing the way data is collected, monitored, and displayed.  Times have changed from the analog strip chart recorders (you may have to Google that, I won’t confirm or deny that I did) to digital, real-time cloud-based systems.  The knowledge of what instruments and data management system you have on your ambient monitoring station is important.  In terms of meteorological instrumentation, it is helpful to know ‘are spare instruments available for purchase in case of a failure?’ or ‘is the company the instruments were purchased from still providing services for recalibration or recertification?’.

One of the major suppliers of meteorological instrumentation commonly found on monitoring stations around the world was bought out and, in the process, the instrumentation has been discontinued and replaced with similar instrumentation that requires new or additional electrical communication hardware and software to implement.  What does this mean?  It means that if a facility doesn’t have a spare of a discontinued instrument, it may be very hard to find a replacement when the time is required and may lead to a higher cost to replace instrumentation, connections, and all wiring to get the monitoring station back up and running again.  In addition, services for recalibration or recertification, spare parts, or repairs for widely popular instrumentation that has been discontinued may not be provided by the company that has bought out and discontinued the original instrumentation manufacturer.  A third party may be required to service the instrumentation as necessary.

What can ALL4 do for your ambient monitoring needs?

ALL4 is here to assist you in collecting legally defensible ambient data.  We have staff that are experts in auditing, calibrating, and planning for your monitoring system needs.  We have an expansive knowledge of the technology available and have the resources you may need when your instruments require recalibration or recertification.  There are many different standards to track for each type of ambient monitoring and ALL4 is here to help.  If you have any questions regarding ambient monitoring stations, or are interested in learning more about them, give me an email or call (dsnare@all4inc.com, 610-933-5246 x126) or reach out to Dayna Pelc (dpelc@all4inc.com, 610-933-5246 x169).


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