There has been an increase in oil sands development in northern Alberta, Canada and an overall increase in economic activity in the province in recent years. An evaluation of the state of air quality was conducted in four Alberta locations - urban centers of Calgary and Edmonton, and smaller communities of Fort McKay and Fort McMurray in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR). Concentration trends, diurnal hourly and monthly average concentration profiles, and exceedances of provincial, national and international air quality guidelines were assessed for several criteria air pollutants over the period 1998 to 2014. Two methods were used to evaluate trends. Parametric analysis of annual median 1h concentrations and non-parametric analysis of annual geometric mean 1h concentrations showed consistent decreasing trends for NO2 and SO2 (<1ppb per year), CO (<0.1ppm per year) at all stations, decreasing for THC (<0.1ppm per year) and increasing for O3 (≤0.52ppb per year) at most stations and unchanged for PM2.5 at all stations in Edmonton and Calgary over a 17-year period. Little consistency in trends was observed among the methods for the same air pollutants other than for THC (increasing in Fort McKay <0.1ppm per year and no trend in Fort McMurray), PM2.5 in Fort McKay and Fort McMurray (no trend) and CO (decreasing <0.1ppm per year in Fort McMurray) over the same period. Levels of air quality indicators at the four locations were compared with other Canadian and international urban areas to judge the current state of air quality. Median and annual average concentrations for Alberta locations tended to be the smallest in Fort McKay and Fort McMurray. Other than for PM2.5, Calgary and Edmonton tended to have median and annual average concentrations comparable to and/or below that of larger populated Canadian and U.S. cities, depending upon the air pollutant.
Keywords: Alberta; Exceedances; Indicators; Regulatory limits; Trends; Urban air quality.
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