Monitoring the environment

How EPA monitors Victoria’s air

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EPA Victoria monitors air quality at a number of locations around the state. These monitors provide EPA and the Victorian community with information on the concentration of pollutants in the air.

EPA uses different types of air monitors for different purposes:

  • General condition monitors provide EPA with information on general air quality and pollution happening over a large area.
  • Local condition monitors tell us about local air quality and pollution issues.
  • Incident air monitors are set up to respond to major pollution events.

Read about EPA’s air monitoring network.

Watch a video (YouTube) to learn what happens inside one of EPA’s air monitoring stations.

Monitoring Victoria’s ambient air quality

EPA’s ambient air quality network is made up of general condition monitors.

General condition monitors are strategically placed around the state and form the foundation of EPA’s monitoring network. Some monitors are fixed and some are mobile. EPA has been monitoring ambient air quality at some locations, such as Alphington, Footscray and Traralgon, for more than 30 years.

EPA uses the air quality data collected at these stations to report annually on Victoria’s ambient air quality. This is done by assessing the data against the national air quality standards, known as the Ambient Air Quality National Environment Protection Measure (NEPM). These standards are incorporated into the State Environment Protection Policy (SEPP – Ambient Air Quality).

Monitoring local air quality

EPA has a limited number of local condition monitors placed in communities where there is a specific pollution concern. Currently there is a local condition monitor in Brooklyn, which is part of EPA’s campaign to improve air quality in the Brooklyn Industrial Precinct. EPA operates local condition monitors for varying periods of time, depending on the specific pollution concern.

Sensor network

A community panel has designed a new air monitoring sensor network for the Latrobe Valley in collaboration with EPA.

The sensor network covers a broad area of the Latrobe Valley and uses a range of different types of monitors that can be moved to adapt to changing circumstances.

Sensor sites allow us to get an indication of air quality in more areas, but do not provide correct information when humidity is high (for example, during fog). Sensor site information is not displayed on EPA AirWatch when humidity at the site is above 80 per cent. If sensors are not available or showing poor or very poor air quality, please double check the result with a nearby standard site or self-assess air quality.

Visit Latrobe Valley air monitoring co-design for more information on the process to design the sensor network. 

Read our Particle sensors fact sheet (publication 1745) to learn more about particle sensors and how they work.

Air quality cameras

There are cameras installed at Callignee, Hernes Oak and Tyers. These help monitor for signs of visible air pollution, such as dust and smoke, in the Latrobe Valley. Images will be available online shortly.

Monitoring during major pollution events

EPA can deploy incident air monitoring equipment when requested by emergency services. The portable equipment allows us to provide localised air quality readings to the incident controller.

The data collected by the incident air monitors provides useful information about the impacts of a pollution event and is used to make decisions about what EPA and other agencies do next. Data collected by some incident air monitors is also shown on EPA AirWatch.

Reporting air quality information

EPA is committed to its role of monitoring and reporting of air quality data to the Victorian community.

We do this in several ways:

People unable to access our website are encouraged to call EPA’s call centre 24/7 on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) for the latest EPA data on air quality.

EPA’s role in planned burns

Planned burning involves lighting fires under carefully managed conditions to reduce the risk of bushfire. The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Parks Victoria undertake planned burning across Victoria, particularly on public land such as forests.

DELWP usually monitors smoke impacts during planned burns and can request that EPA deploy its incident response air monitoring equipment. EPA can also provide information on air quality forecasting when requested.

What does EPA do when an air monitor shows a high reading for airborne particles?

If an air monitor shows a high reading, EPA will investigate to understand what could be causing the reading.

We investigate by doing some or all of the following things:

  • comparing the data from the monitors with other air monitors in the area
  • mobilising EPA staff to observe air quality in the area or examine the air monitors
  • consulting with other government agencies, such as the Country Fire Authority (CFA) or Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), that may have additional information.

If there’s an issue with poor air quality, EPA will:

  • inform the community and relevant government agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services; update the information in EPA’s online air quality bulletins; and inform media outlets
  • investigate, if necessary, the extent and cause of the air quality issue, and determine whether it’s happened before and whether communities will be impacted
  • do more monitoring to complement the air monitor if required.
If there’s a problem with the monitor, EPA will put up a notice on our website explaining the situation, and temporarily remove the affected data from the website.

Page last updated on 24 Jun 2019