Polluting Plant Strategically Reduces Emissions When Being Tested (June 20, 2018)
Note: Manual Sampling Average: 111mg/Nm3
With particulate air pollution being the single greatest threat to human health, cutting global life expectancy short by about 2 years, policymakers in the most polluted countries need efficient ways to reduce pollution. In order to ensure that industrial facilities comply with pollution limits, government regulators need access to plant emissions data. In the past, this data was captured strictly through predictable, manual inspections that were easy to game. In recent years, Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems (CEMS) have significantly increased regulators’ ability to monitor plant activity in real time, making it harder to cheat.
India is one nation trailblazing this approach in developing countries. India’s central government mandated the installation of CEMS in highly polluting industries across the country in 2014. But only recently has the technology taken hold with the help of EPIC researchers, partner institutes and pollution regulators in India. Over the last couple years, the researchers and state officials have installed and tested the use of CEMS.
The data is in—and, it confirms the importance of transparent data collection as regulators begin to pinpoint where pollution is occurring and how to improve environmental regulation in developing countries. Here, a plant with CEMS monitors installed is shown to be operating well above legal pollution limits. When inspectors show up, the emissions drop rapidly in an attempt to show compliance. Without access to real-time monitoring, regulators might assume this plant is operating within legal limits. Now, they know better.