Town’s pollution levels low
Taihape residents can breathe easy, it looks like air pollution levels are well within safe levels despite a series of still, frosty winter nights.
The findings are detailed in the latest air quality monitoring report to the Horizons Regional Council environment committee.
Taihape is one of the two ‘‘designated airsheds’’ in the council’s area – Taumarunui is the other – which means that it could potentially breach national air pollution standards, a council spokesman said after the meeting.
There are 80-odd such places around the country.
Taihape was designated in 2006 mainly, it seems, because of its topography – the town is in a bowl – and its central North Island climate.
The combined effects of these mean that when the wind is not blowing and it is a cold winter’s night, the air over the town becomes trapped, along with any pollutants from human activity underneath.
In Taihape’s case, that is mostly from wood-burning home fires as people light up to keep warm. It’s estimated 84 per cent of such air pollution is caused by ‘‘fine particle matter’’ in the air generated mostly by domestic heating, wood fires in particular. It is also this type of pollution that causes breathing problems to the young and old especially, the spokesman said.
Most of the rest of air pollution in a place like Taihape is caused by outside backyard burning in the likes of incinerators, which is why there is a lengthy list of things people are banned from burning outside, like tyres, plastics and paint.
Such an incident was the chief suspect in two cases in Taihape in January and February, when pollution levels reached ‘‘alert’’ level, as measured by the council’s air monitoring site at the fire station in Kuku St, he said.
The council did a drive-by and door-knocked in the area in search of the culprit, but no-one put their hand up – although the pollution level fell after they left.
Because there is much less air pollution around today, the council figured its education efforts were paying off.
The air down Taihape’s main street isn’t too bad.