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  Industrial Emissions Air Plume Delineation

The monitoring of industrial emissions to the atmosphere is changing rapidly in response to increased demands from regulators. Hardware, software and application techniques have all evolved.   Keeping current with developments is a continual challenge. 

Industrial Air Pollution

Research continues to show that airborne contaminants can be carried hundreds of miles from its source and can cause health and environmental problems on a regional or even global scale. In humans, airborne contaminants can cause burning eyes, irritated throats, difficulty with breathing, long-term damage to the respiratory and reproductive systems, cancer, and, in the most severe cases, death.   Trees, lakes, crops, buildings, and statues can be damaged by air pollution.

In the USA, the Clean Air Act of 1970 (amended in 1990), administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets and enforces air pollutant limits on sources such as power plants and industrial facilities to help protect against harmful health and environmental effects. Although the Clean Air Act is a Federal law, state and local agencies are responsible for implementing many of its requirements.   Other countries with air pollution problems have put into place similar laws, directives, and initiates.

Airborne contaminants such as sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, ozone emitted by industrial facilities can travel great distances from their sources.   Airborne contaminants migrate across political boundaries and states (and provinces) and communities cannot independently solve all of their air contamination problems.   Resolving air pollution control issues often requires state (and provincial or regional) and local governments to work together to reduce air emissions.

Evaluation of Industrial Air PollutionStack emitting smoke - Image Source:

To evaluate air pollution, the air must either be sampled and tested with real-time field instrumentation, onsite laboratory analysis, or by the collection of air samples for laboratory analysis.   The evaluation of industrial air contaminant plumes is complex because contaminant concentrations vary with time, distance from source, and with meteorological conditions.  

Air Dispersion Modeling Software

We list links to a number of sources of geologic, scientific, and environmental software on our internet software links page.   Some software that can assist with compliance, monitoring, and assessment include:

  • Air Dispersion Modeling, Inc. Offers advanced air pollution modeling software. Software solutions for air dispersion modeling, traffic pollution models, meteorological models, contaminant emission modeling, EPA’s Risk Management Plan (RMP), EPA Ecological Risk Assessment model, emissions estimation, Industrial Risk Assessment models, human health models, and toxic gas accidental release modeling.

  • Dispersion Modeling Information on the US EPA website uses mathematical formulations to characterize the atmospheric processes that disperse a pollutant emitted by a source. Based on emissions and meteorological input, a dispersion model can be used to predict concentrations at selected downwind receptor locations. These air quality models are used to determine compliance with National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), and other regulatory requirements such as New Source Review (NSR) and Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) regulations. These models are addressed in Appendix A of EPA's Guideline on Air Quality Models (also published as of 40 CFR Part 51), which was originally published in April 1978 to provide consistency and equity in the use of modeling within the U.S. air quality management system.
  • Trinity Consultants performs Air Dispersion Modeling to assist Industrial Facilities.   They have performed dispersion modeling studies to assist industrial facilities in assessing the impact of their emissions on ambient air quality. Regulatory requirements for dispersion modeling remain the primary motivation for the majority of modeling studies in the U.S. New federal modeling guidelines, more complex models that simulate the transformation of pollutants and more accurately represent dispersion, and stringent air quality standards have made regulatory modeling more demanding.


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