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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Impact of coal-carrying trains on particulate matter concentrations in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia, Canada Akaoka, Kevin J.


The transport of coal by train through residential neighbourhoods in Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada is a growing concern for many residents living near the railway. This study aimed to identify and quantify any potential particulate matter (PM) increase caused by the presence of rail traffic adjacent to John Oliver Park in Delta, BC. Field work was carried out during August and September 2014, using a GRIMM optical particle counter that measured PM concentration at various size ranges. A select number of passing trains were confirmed visually, while the majority of passages were identified with audio data recorded by a microphone. A horizontally operating mini-micropulse lidar system was also set up at the park on three individual days to make intensive backscatter measurements. Wind data were recorded by collocated instruments maintained by Metro Vancouver. Finally, the Corporation of Delta had a dustfall measurement campaign during the same time period. Trains carrying coal are associated with a 5.28, 4.11, and 2.55 µg/m³ average increase in concentration over a 15 minute period, compared to control conditions for PM₃, PM₁₀, and PM₂₀, respectively. These increases are all statistically significant at α=0.01. PM concentrations during train passages of all types were not found to be significantly different from PM concentrations during control conditions. The presence of coal dust particles at the site was confirmed by the dustfall measurements carried out by the Corporation of Delta. Lidar backscatter imagery provided individual snapshots of train passages. However, it is clear that not every train passage causes an increase in PM concentration, and the effect appears to be highly dependent on wind direction and local meteorology.

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