Air Quality Monitoring/Modelling

The impact that air pollution can have on water is something that is too often overlooked. Pollution in the air can end up in our bodies of water, impacting aquatic ecosystems, the overall environment and water quality. As the regional and remote water specialist, our team needs to be able to understand and anticipate those potential impacts so they can be anticipated, avoided and/or minimised.  One way our team can help is by providing you with air quality modelling, which can help you address air pollution issues.

The State of Air Pollution

In order to maintain Australia’s clear quality skies, air pollution is top of mind for the states’ environmental protection agencies. Only when compared to other nations, like China, can we reflect on the negative effects that high air pollution has on health and the quality of peoples’ life.

It is no surprise that human activities impact the environment and air quality. Here, we have some examples of specific pollutants that are the result of common industrial activities.


Activity  Pollutants
 Waste incinerators
  • Dioxins
  • Heavy Metals
  • Particulates
  • Inorganic acidic gases
  • Sulphur Dioxide
  • Metal Particulates
 Industrial Boilers
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Sulphur oxides
  • Oxides of nitrogen
  • Acid gases
  • Organic compounds
  • Metals
 Farming (ploughing, field burning)
  • Methane
  • Nitrous oxide
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Ammonia
  • Hydrogen sulphide
  • Particulate matter
 Paint spraying
  • Evaporated solvents
  • Odours
  • Toxic compounds
  • Overspray
 Sand blasting
  •  Particulate matter (dust)
  •  Particulate matter (dust)

No two activities are completely identical. Therefore a Simmonds & Bristow environmental professional will initially assess your specific operation to determine the pollutants of greatest interest.

What are the legislative requirements for air pollution modelling?

Air pollution modelling is often used to identify key negative impacts the facility may have on the air quality before it commences operation. These key impacts occur to:

  • The environment;
  • Human health; and
  • Public nuisance.

This modelling is best applied prior to lodgement of a development application for sites performing scheduled and non-scheduled activities as defined under the Environment Operations Act 1997 (Schedule 1). Each state’s environmental protection agency and each local government authority will have variations to what they require to be covered in the environmental assessment accompanying a development application and what would be deemed acceptable.

Air Modelling 1

What is air pollution modelling?

Essentially, air pollution modelling uses mathematical and physical theory to predict the way a plume of gas containing pollutants behaves when released into the atmosphere. Variables, such as terrain, wind, ambient temperatures, are applied to predict the plume dispersion and ground level concentration of various pollutants.

The power of these models is that they can be created during the planning and development stage of the project. By using known emissions data, either from previous installation or following guidelines, these assessments can predict the level of impact and therefore help design the necessary controls to prevent negative environmental and health impacts.

The controls for air pollution include:

  • Operational controls (i.e. hours of operation, production rates, equipment settings)
  • Engineering controls (e.g. air scrubbing/filtration).

Producing Models

So, how can we produce these models for you?

There are numerous air modelling packages available in the market that are recognised and accepted by local councils and environmental authorities. Some of the simpler and most commonly used modelling packages are AUSPLUME and AERMOD.  Using topographical information, weather patterns, and either collected or published industry pollutant data we can evaluate the potential ground level pollutant concentrations at key sensitive receptors in the surrounding area. By comparing this data to the local government’s objectives we are able to make an assessment of the impact.

If the model predicts that concentrations will exceed the published acceptance level criteria, modelling can also help you figure out ways to prevent that, by adding/adjusting control methods  within the model to demonstrate what would be required.

What models are commonly used and accepted?

Here are examples of three Australian states and the air models that are currently approved and accepted in these states:

Victoria: In Victoria, AERMOD is the preferred assessment tool. AERMOD is a short range (up to 50 km radius) air dispersion model which dispersion algorithms are built to take into account atmospheric (weather) conditions and terrain features.

New South Wales accepts a number of models including: AUSPLUME, CALPUFF and CALMET.

AUSPLUME is accepted for sites that are situated away from the coastline; Similarly to AERMOD, AUSPLUME calculated the air dispersion and pollutant concentrations based on the terrain and the meteorological data.

CALPUFF model is used in applications involving the long-range transport of pollutants (> 50 km). It is also used on a case-by-case basis in situations involving complex flow and varying parameters within 50 km of the source.

Queensland: no particular air dispersion model is preferred.

Though no particular model is specified as preferred the Queensland guidelines refers to the guidance given in the ‘Approved methods for the modelling and assessment of air pollutants in NSW and VIC’.

What do the Models produce?

The model results will be interpreted by our specialists and presented in an easy to understand report format. This will include tables and images to show results visually, something that many clients find helpful.