Avonmouth air quality meets UK standards, study finds

Environment Agency monitoring of industrial port finds dust levels are below national limits, despite local complaints

Dust levels at Avonmouth docks near Bristol do not pose a risk to public health, the Environment Agency has concluded, after it monitored particulate matter PM10 and PM2.5 below both daily and annual average UK limits.

Both the Agency and Bristol city council began monitoring air quality in two areas of Avonmouth last summer. This came in response to concerns raised by local residents about wood and metal dust emissions from industrial sites at the port, with a petition calling for continuous monitoring at the Port of Avonmouth (see story).

Avonmouth docks (copyright Bristol Port Authority)

Avonmouth docks (copyright Bristol Port Authority)

Air quality has been heavily under the spotlight in Bristol — currently the 2015 European Green Capital — with the Mayor George Ferguson proposing £50,000 to fund air quality monitoring in the city (see story) and the council also receiving £50,000 from Defra to fund air quality initiatives (see story).

And, the Environment Agency yesterday (February 24) published a report detailing findings from its mobile monitoring facility (MMF) close to premises operated by metal recycling firm SIMs and wood recycling firm Boomeco at Avonmouth docks, which found that the air quality met national standards.

Monitoring took place over four months between August 8 to December 10 2014, with particulate levels compared to those monitored on nearby Portview Road by TRL (formerly the Transport Research Laboratory) on behalf of Bristol city council, as well as to Defra’s permanent monitoring station at St Paul’s in Bristol.

The monitoring equipment was able to measure levels of different particle sizes of dust and also to show the direction from which the dust was coming, with all three sites showing a similar trend, although levels of PM10 were “generally higher in Avonmouth”, the Agency said.

Still, the two monitors at Avonmouth found levels of PM10 at 20 ugm3 and 23 ugm3, both meeting the annual average limit of 40 ugm3 (microgrammes per cubic metre) during the monitoring period.

They also both met the 24 hour limit for PM10, which states that daily concentrations must not exceed 50 ugm3 (micrograms per cubic metre) on more than 35 occasions per year.

The Agency said the daily PM10 limit was exceeded just once during the monitoring period, and that was on November 5 — bonfire night — which is generally associated with higher air pollution due to fireworks being let off across the UK.

Meanwhile, the UK Air Quality Strategy sets the annual average limit for PM2.5 at 25 ugm3, but levels at Avonmouth were monitored at 12.1 ugm3 and over the course of a year the Agency does not expect levels to exceed the limit.


The Agency also said that while there were local complaints about dust during the monitoring period, these related to times when the wind was coming from a south westerly direction across the docks and coal conveyor, while there was also one incident when the wind blew from north east direction of the busy A4 and M5 roads.

It has therefore been concluded by the Agency that dust levels in the area do not pose a risk to public health, and the monitoring results were earlier this month (February 3) presented at a public meeting at Avonmouth Community Centre chaired by local MP Charlotte Leslie.

The Environment Agency said: “At the February public meeting Public Health England and Bristol city council’s public health representatives confirmed that recorded levels of dust in Avonmouth were below that which would pose a concern to public health and safety.

“The Environment Agency is continuing to work with the industries it regulates, and with partners, to explore options to reduce dust levels even further from the sources identified by the monitoring.”


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Roland Gilmore
Roland Gilmore
9 years ago

So; dust pollution is of no concern to the EA because it only happens when the wind is from the south west. From my O level geography; isn’t the prevailing wind over England from the south west? Since officially, it is not a problem, why is the EA “continuing to work with the industries it regulates, and with partners, to explore options to reduce dust levels ..”
There appears to be a distinct lack of credibility here.

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