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Merthyr Tydfil: Twynyrodyn air pollution

Merthyr Tydfil: Twynyrodyn air pollution

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An air quality monitoring scheme in part of Merthyr Tydfil will continue for now because of an anomaly in pollution data caused by the pandemic.

A report to be considered by the council’s neighbourhood services, planning and countryside committee on Monday, September 27 said nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) concentrations were shown to have reduced within the air quality management area around Twynyrodyn Street since the reversal of the direction of traffic aimed at cutting pollution.

But it added that, whilst monitoring has continued during the coronavirus
pandemic, the data gathered is “anomalous” due to the reduction in traffic resulting from the pandemic itself.

The report said it was previously hoped that if data for 2020 demonstrated consistently reduced nitrogen dioxide concentrations within acceptable parameters, the council could consider removing the AQMA status.

But due to the anomalous data for 2020, this is not currently possible and
further monitoring is required.

If additional data demonstrates annual average nitrogen dioxide concentrations remain below 36 micrograms per cubic metre, this will enable the AQMA to be revoked in the future, the report said.

It added: “The effects of the coronavirus pandemic and associated lockdown have positively affected concentrations of NO₂ across the borough as expected due to the reduction in traffic movements, including in and around the AQMA.

“Despite a reduction in NO₂ concentrations post-traffic reversal in 2019, it has not been possible to obtain sufficient data throughout 2020 which reflects normal life and therefore traffic movements for a long enough period to ensure initial reductions would be maintained long-term.”

After monitoring done by the council, it was found that there were “elevated concentrations” of nitrogen dioxide on Twynyrodyn Road exceeding the annual limit of 40 micro grams per cubic metre (μg/m³).

The council then decided it needed to declare an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) and it produced and Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) to to reduce the concentration of nitrogen dioxide to an acceptable level.

After consultation, and the council decided to go ahead with the option to reduce the volume of traffic on Twynyrodyn Road as a whole by providing an alternative northbound route for vehicles using the roundabout outside Tesco.

A permanent Traffic Regulation Order was made to reverse the traffic flow on Pontmorlais High Street with it coming into force in May 2019 at a cost of £105,264.

Although no traffic surveys have been carried out in 2020, data for January to March of 2019 compared to the same months for 2020 showed a reduction in nitrogen dioxide concentrations within the AQMA, continuing from the reductions already seen after the traffic reversal.

The report added that monitoring of Pontmorlais High Street has not revealed a notable increase, further supporting success of the traffic reversal.

An extra monitoring location which was established to address concerns of residents at Cae Draw Flats of increased air pollution has consistently shown concentrations well within target.

The report said the implementation of the dualling of the A465 started during May 2021 and particular attention will be paid to dust generated by the works

Close attention will also be paid to concentrations of nitrogen dioxide at locations where an increase of traffic is likely due to the associated diversionary routes.

Currently there is no indication that altering the monitoring network or taking any other action is necessary as the diversions are temporary but the report said this will be kept under constant review and should any areas see significant increases in nitrogen dioxide concentrations for prolonged periods, the monitoring network will be updated.

The new bus station has also come into operation from June 2021 and four extra monitoring locations have been added to the existing monitoring network to monitor nitrogen dioxide concentrations around the vicinity of the new station.

Initial data from the additional monitoring locations indicate nitrogen dioxide concentrations well below the limit.

The report said: “The aim is to revoke the existing AQMA.

In order to do so, further monitoring is required to demonstrate that the annual mean nitrogen dioxide concentration within the AQMA remains less than 36μg/m³.

“Revocation will be considered in detail and will occur only if, in conjunction with monitoring evidence, future exceedances are unlikely.

“This will substantially reduce the likelihood of having to re-declare the AQMA.”

Words:  Anthony Lewis, Local Democracy Reporter

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