Alberta's Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act establishes a regulatory framework that requires approvals or code of practice registrations for industries that have the potential to impact the environment. Approvals and codes generally specify monitoring requirements that carry the force of law.
Role of monitoring
- ensures that pollution control technologies are operating effectively
- provides an early warning system for potential contamination issues
- characterizes complex emissions to determine potential environmental impacts
- provides information for provincial and national emission inventories used in environmental management
- assesses the impact of releases on the environment
- provides data for tracking trends in environmental performance and effects
In these ways, compulsory monitoring provides essential information on the environmental performance and impact of industrial operations.
Approvals for large industrial operations may include the monitoring of air emissions; wastewater and potentially contaminated stormwater releases; groundwater; soil; treated sewage releases; drinking water; hazardous wastes; environmental effects; operation of pollution control technologies; reclamation activities; and
ambient air and water quality.
The intent is to require monitoring of all emission sources of environmental significance and the components of the environment that could be impacted by the industry.
Specific monitoring requirements
Monitoring requirements are tailored for each industrial operation based on the types and quantities of emission. Monitoring requirements vary within industry sectors.
Monitoring requirements in approvals and codes specify the following:
- monitoring or sampling locations
- frequency of monitoring or sampling
- type of sample
- parameters measured
- monitoring method(s)
- analytical method(s)
- data recording, record keeping and reporting
In general, the larger the emission source or the greater the potential for environmental impact, the more frequent and detailed the compulsory monitoring requirements will be.
Quality assurance/quality control
Results of compulsory industry monitoring are important to Alberta Environment, as they verify the general environmental performance of an industrial operation. The results also help the department assess compliance with specific performance requirements. (Note: It is a serious offence to fail to provide monitoring information or to provide false information.) Government and industry both have a stake in ensuring the reliability of compulsory monitoring information.
Alberta Environment undertakes the following quality assurance and quality control activities related to compulsory monitoring data:
- establishes specific monitoring protocols, e.g. Alberta Stack Sampling Code and Air Monitoring Directive
- undertakes spot audits of industry monitoring
- inspects industries
- undertakes monitoring programs to verify industry monitoring
- reviews quality assurance/control procedures
- reviews compulsory monitoring data for anomalies or inconsistencies
- takes action immediately to address monitoring reliability issues including enforcement action if appropriate
Compulsory monitoring is considered part of the environmental cost of an industry doing business in Alberta and is consistent with the "polluter pays" principle. The objective of compulsory monitoring is to obtain reliable data on the environmentally-related performance and environmental impacts of industrial operations and to make this information available to the public.