Excess amounts of posionous gas found on our streets

TWO of Magherafelt’s busiest streets have been declared Air Quality Management Areas after levels of a poisonous gas were found to be exceeding EU standards.

Recent tests carried out by the council at Church Street and King Street, which are both close to a number of homes and schools, showed high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

At last week’s Environmental Health meeting, councillors were told that a document entitled ‘Detailed Assessment for NO2 Levels on Church Street and King Street, Magherafelt September 2011’ was submitted to the Department of Environment “with the conclusion” that there was breach of the objective limit in this location.

It recommended that the Council should declare an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) as required by legislation and the technical guidance.

The gas levels are being blamed on vehicle fumes, which build up in both areas daily.

The news has renewed calls for construction of a by-pass in the town, with representatives saying the problem will “only get worse” without one.

“A by-pass would solve this problem straight away,” said Environmental Officer Maurice Young.

“But there are small things that can be done to reduce these levels.”

Deputy Chair George Shiels added: “There is no doubt that this is good ammunition for getting a by-pass. Other areas such as Queen Street and Rainey Street probably have the same problem but probably not to the same degree because they are well ventilated by the Diamond.”

SDLP councillor Jim Campbell said: “This problem will not get any better. We have quite a lot of residents and school children in those areas so this needs to be managed very carefully.”

Council will now come up with an action plan aimed at reducing the levels on both streets. At present the Environmental Health Department currently measures nitrogen dioxide levels using diffusion tubes in both areas and will continue to do so to provide further data.

Within 12 months from the AQMA coming into force, a further assessment and action plan will be forwarded by Magherafelt Council to the Air and Environmental Quality Unit of the DOE.

Since December 1997 each local authority in the UK has been carrying out a review and assessment of air quality in their area.

This is the first time Magherafelt District Council has had to declare AQMA. It now joins 10 other district councils in the north who have had to closely monitor and manage areas where high levels of dangerous gases exist.