EPA monitoring set to expand

AIR quality monitoring is set to continue across the Latrobe Valley following a funding allocation of $4.4 million to the Environment Protection Authority over five years.

The funding was last week confirmed in the 2016/17 state budget as part of the $51.2 million package aimed at improving health outcomes in the region.

EPA Gippsland regional manager Emily Sanders said the funding would allow the authority to consider the best way going forward, in consultation with the community.

“We already have a presence in the Latrobe Valley at the moment – this funding will support our ongoing commitment to enhance monitoring (in the area),” Ms Sanders said.

The EPA will use $3.7 million to expand its air monitoring capabilities and citizen science program, with plans to consult with community members about what that may look like.

Its goals include supporting residents to actively monitor their air and water quality; seeking to extend air quality monitoring coverage to other local communities and considering new ways to best communicate air quality information.

“The community certainly has expressed a desire to understand their air quality better in the Latrobe Valley and to also access that information,” Ms Sanders said.

“The system this will put in place will go some way to answering the community’s questions.”

Over the past 12 months, the EPA has reviewed how it communicates air quality information, redeveloped its website and launched AirWatch – an interactive map with air quality information.

Ms Sanders said other methods could involve apps on mobile phones, but anything developed would be co-designed with the general public so residents could understand what certain readings mean.

A further $700,000 will fund a smoke detection infrastructure initiative, with 10 portable smoke detection monitors to be pre-deployed across regional Victoria based on fire risk.

The EPA will also work with the VicSES to maintain equipment for fire events and update emergency services about smoke-related information.

The authority is now working out how the community can have its say on the future of air quality monitoring in the Latrobe Valley.

For more information about the EPA or to monitor air quality in your area, visit www.epa.vic.gov.au