Pay Online
Sign Up

About the Air Quality Center

How we Monitor

Our agency operates real-time ambient air quality monitors in seven locations in our jurisdiction. Most of these air quality monitors keep track of air pollution in populated areas. Others – like the monitor near Lynden – measure regional background air quality. Our Columbia Valley monitor is helpful as we work with the community to improve an identified, localized air pollution problem caused largely by residential wood heating.

We also require some of the largest industries to monitor air quality with monitors on their properties. We audit their monitoring equipment and provide the data in monthly reports on our website.

About the Sensors

The Northwest Clean Air Agency uses a combination of air quality monitors and sensors to measure pollutants and atmospheric conditions at various locations in Island, Skagit, and Whatcom counties. Monitors are more sophisticated equipment that can be used to measure a variety of pollutants. Sensors are small, low-cost units that generally only measure fine particle pollution (such as the particles found in smoke).

What are the Standards?

Under the federal Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set National Ambient Air Quality Standards for six types of pollutants that are harmful to public health and the environment: Ground-level ozone, fine particles, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and lead.

To make it easier for us to communicate how clean or polluted our air is, and what the associated health effects might be, EPA has created the Air Quality Index (AQI) for five of the six pollutants for which it has set national ambient air quality standards. (There is no index for lead.)