Thu | Jan 17, 2019

Jamaica has air-quality standards

Published:Friday | March 27, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Peter Knight

I am writing in response to your editorial of Wednesday, March 25, 2015 titled 'Are there air-quality standards?' We found the editorial thought-provoking and topical to the current discussions now taking place on the air-quality issues as a result of the fire at the Riverton waste-disposal site.

I am pleased to advise you that there exist national air-quality regulations and standards under the Natural Resources Conservation Authority Act (NRCA). The NRCA (Air Quality Regulations, 2006) provides the framework for regulating emissions from major and significant point sources and are developed pursuant to Section 38 of the NRCA Act, 1991.

The NRCA (Ambient Air Quality Standards) Regulations, 1996 underpin the responsibility of the Government to ensure that the ambient air quality protects human and environmental health. The Regulations and Standards support the NRCA-NEPA national air-quality monitoring programme.

The regulations outline the ambient air-quality limits for specific parameters. Parameters of interest are referred to as critical air pollutants, namely: total suspended particulates, particulate matter having diameters not less than 10 micrometres (PM110), lead, sulphur dioxide, photochemical oxides (ozone), carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide.

The regulations also cover the parameter photochemical oxides which are measured as ozone, an end-product of photochemical reactions. Toxic chemicals such as benzene and its derivatives are also regulated under the NRCA (Air Quality) Regulations.

It is also useful to note that the National Air Quality Programme covers both public- and private-sector facilities. Currently, NEPA operates four air-monitoring stations in the Corporate Area and St Catherine: Old Hope Road, Spanish Town Road, Cross Roads and Waterford (fire station). Two additional monitoring stations are operational in Montego Bay, St James, and May Pen, Clarendon. Currently, the monitoring programme is being expanded to Spanish Town and Mandeville.

There are seven monitoring stations operated by air-pollutant discharge licensees in the Kingston Metropolitan Area. Two are operated by the Jamaica Public Service Company: Rockfort and Marcus Garvey Drive (Garmex). One at Petrojam Limited, Marcus Garvey Drive; three operated by Caribbean Cement Company Limited: Rockfort, Caribbean Maritime Institute premises and College Commons) and one by Jamaica Private Power Company at Rockfort.




Overall, 39 industry facilities, islandwide, are licensed under the regulations. All are mandated by conditions of their licence to undertake self-monitoring activities and report on emissions released. This allows NEPA to tabulate and assess air-pollutant loadings and air-quality levels across the country.

The air-quality standards and regulations, as well as NEPA's National Air Quality Monitoring Programme and Reports, can be viewed on its website at

The website has information on incident reports on the Riverton and other fires, as well as annual emissions.

Finally, please note that the current regulations do not cover emissions from motor vehicles. The gap is recognised. NEPA is leading the development of national motor vehicle emissions standards in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing and other partners. When the process is completed, the standards will be published and regulated under the Road Traffic Act.

- Peter Knight is chief executive officer/government town planner of the National Environment and Planning Agency.