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University of Calgary

ENSC 502


Project Outline
Power Point Presentation Summary
Overview of the Study

Environmental Science 502:
Special Projects in Environmental Management
Fall 2000 - Winter 2001

Air Quality at Two Sites West of Calgary: Perceived Health Impacts due to Sour Gas Emissions

April 14, 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM
The University of Calgary
2500 University Drive N.W.
Earth Science Building
Room ES 162

        Air quality was examined at two locations west of Calgary to assess the impact of emissions from sour gas operations.  Total organic carbon (TOC), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), sulphate, n-alkanes, and metals in aerosols were examined.  Perspective on the relative importance of the atmospheric concentrations found west of the city were provided by comparing the data to those from a remote site in the Kananaskis and values found within Calgary and other urban locations.  The perceptions of the Bearspaw and Priddis communities were surveyed to shed light on the health impacts people felt were due to emissions from the sour gas industry, and to examine the link between public perception and the role of the press.  Students also performed a study of indoor air quality, factors affecting it, and the link to outdoor air quality.  Wet sulphur oxide deposition rates were measured at various locations in and around Calgary, and precipitation characteristics were also studied to determine whether sour gas emissions had a discernable influence on precipitation pH.  Average sulphur dioxide concentrations found at the two field sites were compared with calculations performed by an atmospheric dispersion model.  Vegetation at the two sites was examined as a surrogate monitoring technique for sulphur deposition at the two sites, and the legal issues surrounding emissions regulations, compliance, and enforcement will be described.

This study was performed by the Winter 2000 ENSC 502 class.


1. Perceived Health Impacts:
Contacts: Dr. J. Baxter, Dr. T. Lambert, Dr. S. Roth
This group will provide an overview of the health effects that are both perceived and experienced by populations in the districts of Bearspaw and Priddis.

2. Impacts on Vegetation: A Surrogate as a Human Health Indicator
Contact:  Dr. K. Foster
A survey and analysis of vegetation in the two study areas west of Calgary was conducted. Impacts of sour gas emissions on vegetation, and the advantages and limitations of this technique as a surrogate for assessing the impacts on human health was examined.

3. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
Contacts: A.L. Norman and E.A. Dixon
Students researched the formation, destruction, and cycling of PAHs in the environment and determined the prevalence of these compounds in aerosols at two sites west of the city.  The data were placed in context with a review of information from studies in cities, in remote regions, and downwind of specific industrial sources.

4.  N-Alkanes
Contacts: E.A. Dixon and A.L. Norman
The abundance of n-alkanes collected on air filters at two locations west of the city is expected to provide an indication of how much raw condensate is entering the air and./or the extent to which  incomplete combustion from sour gas emissions contributes to the formation of particulate matter.  Students in this group will review the origin of n-alkanes in aerosols, their concentrations in cities, remote regions, and their prevalence in particles collected downwind of specific industries.

5. Sulphur Dioxide and Sulphate
Contact: A.L. Norman
Sulphur dioxide and sulphate are expected to be the primary indicator of sour gas emissions upwind of the sampling units.   This group measured the concentrations of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and sulphate (SO4) in air west of the city.

6. Metals and Nitrate in Aerosols
Contact: E.A. Dixon
Specific metals are associated with oil and gas deposits.  Others may be introduced through corrosion as acid gases are processed.  Do these metals actually make up part of the emissions to the atmosphere and are they present in significant amounts to have an impact on human health? This group will looked at metals concentrations in aerosols west of the city to help provide answers to the above question.

7.  pH, Nitrate, and Sulphate in Rain
Contact: A.L. Norman
Airborne concentrations of aerosols and gases are a significant source of pollutants that end up in people’s lungs, and this is usually cited as the 'vector' for health impacts.  What role do pollutants and pH in precipitation play?  This group reviewed factors affecting pH in precipitation, average values for pH, nitrate, and sulphate in Calgary precipitation, and calculated sulphur deposition from their measurements.

8.  Role of the Press and Historical Perspective and Public Opinion
Contacts: J.Baxter and G. Kerluke
How are perceived health risks associated with the sour gas industry related to press coverage?  Has public opinion on this issue changed over time and what are the factors influencing it?  What factors have been influential in forming emission regulations in the province and how are they changing?  These and other relevant questions were explored by students in this group. Press coverage throughout the history of oil and gas exploration in the province was examined and its relationship to regulatory practices in the province was explored.

9.  Modeling SO2
Contacts: K. McDonald and A.L. Norman
An atmospheric dispersion model was used to calculate the average sulphur dioxide concentrations in air at the two study sites.  An intercomparison between model results and sulphur dioxide concentrations measured at the two sites, were used to assess the limitations and advantages of atmospheric modelling.

10. Legal Issues
Contact: A. Lucas
Legal issues surrounding the sour gas industry application and approval process, emissions and flaring standards, enforcement and regulatory requirements, were examined by this group.  Students provided a background on legal issues at the forefront of today's controversies surrounding health impacts by researching the history of legal actions in the province. This group provided the legislative setting for concerns and issues outlined by other groups.

11. Air Monitoring Group
Contact: A. Chu
Indoor air quality is potentially much more important than outdoor air quality in affecting human health, particularly in locations where people remain indoors during winter months.  Students in this group used portable air monitors to record and analyse the concentrations of fine particulate matter in indoor and outdoor settings. They evaluated the limitations and advantages of air monitoring techniques and provided a link between respirable particles in air with what was found at two sites west of the city.

Contact Information:
J. Baxter
ph: 403-220-5593

A. Chu
ph: 403-220-8987

Dr. Lawrence Cheng
Phone: 780-427-0907;
meso-scale (regional) transport and deposition modelling, which includes chemical
transformations and removal processes.

E.A. Dixon
ph: 403-220-8630

K. Foster
Air Quality Phytotoxicologist
Science and Technology Branch
Environmental Sciences Division
Alberta Environment
2938 11 St. N.E.
Calgary, Alberta, T2E 7L7
ph: 403-297-8207 / fax: 403-297-6069

Dr. Ahmed Idriss
Alberta Environment
Phone: 780-427-6866
specializes in short-range plume dispersion modelling and is the author of Alberta Environment's "Air Quality Model Guidelines"

Dr. T. Lambert (Sulphur Dioxide Expert)
Risk Assessment Specialist
Environmental Health, Population Health
Calgary Regional Health Authority
P.O. Box 4016, Station C
320 - 17 Ave. S.W.
Calgary, Alberta T2T 5T1
ph: 403-228-7499 / fax: 403-228-8698

Dr. A. Lucas
Professor of Law
Associate Dean (Research)
Adjunct Professor of Environmental Science
4340 Murray Fraser Hall
ph: (403) 220-7111
fax: (403) 220-282-8325

Ms. J. Seidel
Associate Director
Centre for Advancement of Health
Foothills Medical Centre
1403 29th St. N.W.
ph: (403) 670-2451
fax: (403) 670-1090

Ms. G. Kerlukes (Priddis)
ph: 403-931-3854

Dr. K. McDonald
Coordinator and Assistant Professor
After-degree Program in Environmental Health
Concordia University College
10537 - 44 Street, Edmonton, AB   T6A 1W1
Tel:  (780) 413-7812
Fax: (780) 469-8419

A.L. Norman
ph: 403-220-5405

Dr. S. Roth (hydrogen sulphide expert)
Professor Departments of Pharmacology and Therapeutics and Anesthesia
Faculty of Medicine
The University of Calgary
ph: 403-220-6002

Mr. P. Sherrington (Bearspaw)
Ph: 403-932-5183


1. Health Effects
Sandy Rondesvedt
Chris Wiggins
Trena Sola
Tammy Chan
Kevin Atta
Garry Kane

2. Vegetation
Sandy Rossi
Renné Bellavance
Mari Decker
Dan Woynillowicz
Elaine Lee

3. PAHs
Jon Wiens
Wind Tang
Natasha Kuzmak
Farzin Malekani
Jason Newington

4. N-Alkanes
Ainslee Campbell
Tracey Comis
Karm Hans
Claudia Haas

5. SO2 and SO42-
Tim Seto
Robin Isaacs
Carrie Armeneau
Lisa Mensink

6. Heavy Metals
Karen Trenholm
Jen Martinson
Mike Armeneau
Sean Wade
Tara Bessette

7. pH, NO3-, and SO42- in precipitation
Bonnie Derkson
Caryn Mann
Michelle Bentzen
Barb Crawford
Anne Umpleby

8. Press
Lisa Grieef
Sachin Bhardwaj
Nathalie Lowry
Rebecca Stenson

9. Modeling SO2 and SO42-
Arlene Reimer
Sean Reilly
Ben Kampala
Stephanie McIntyre
Conor Boyd

11. Legal Issues
Colin Oke
Jodie Smith
Stacey Kokot
Labib El-Ali

12. Air Monitoring
Andrea LaPietra
Jen Levesque
Mark Peterson
Avril Johnson