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Quantitech has been awarded a contract worth more than GBP1m to provide advanced air sampling and analysis equipment for a multi-agency air-quality cell (AQC).

The AQC has been established following the recommendations of the Major Incident Investigation Board for the Buncefield incident.

The company has supplied 18 sets of instrumentation, including advanced portable Gasmet FTIR multi-gas analysers in addition to TCR Tecora high-volume Echo and low-volume Delta air sampling equipment.

Quantitech has also been responsible for the provision of a training programme covering instrument operation, maintenance, calibration and service.

The project was created to develop an air monitoring and modelling capability for major pollution incidents affecting England and Wales.

Participants include the Environment Agency, the Health Protection Agency, Public Health Wales, the Met Office, the Health and Safety Laboratory, the Food Standards Agency and Local Authorities.

Quantitech’s Dr Andrew Hobson has been responsible for providing initial training on the instruments.

The FTIR analyser is located in a backpack and effectively provides laboratory-grade analysis in a field instrument.

A Bluetooth connection to a handheld personal digital assistant provides simultaneous measurements for up to 25 compounds and the collection of a complete sample spectrum means that more than 250 compounds can be analysed.

The Environment Agency’s Gillian Hickey, service manager for monitoring in the Air Quality in Major Incidents project, said: ‘Over the last six months, we have responded to a number of chemical air-pollution incidents with enhanced interim arrangements.

‘Our experience and the lessons learned at these incidents, which have included fires at tyre recycling sites, a waste management transfer site, an electrical recycling site and a publishing warehouse, are proving invaluable in the development of our monitoring and modelling capability, which will be fully established in April 2010,’ she added.

Portable monitoring equipment is vital to the success of the project because of the rapid response times that have been established.

The emergency services will notify the Environment Agency within 30 minutes of a major pollution incident; the Environment Agency will then convene the AQC.

Chemet air modelling information from the Met Office will be available within 20 minutes, with more detailed modelling provided later.

The Environment Agency will mobilise monitoring teams from one or more of eight locations and monitoring data will be provided to the AQC within two to six hours of the incident.

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