Subcarpathia educates residents and communes.
A clean environment, including clean air, mutually belong to every person and constitutes to a constitutional value. Any refusal by the authorities to limit emissions should be considered an act against the health and safety of residents. On 22 February 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union (ref. C-336/16) stated that Poland had infringed EU law in the area of ambient air quality through occurring excessive emissions, which is subject to financial penalty. The main cause of the occurring exceedances, that is, the hazard for the health and safety of residents, is the combustion of solid fuels, including hard coal, in old boilers in single-family houses.
However, the effectiveness of the fight for clean air is largely dependent on the residents themselves, who do not all comply with local orders and bans. However, the experience of the Subcarpathia province shows that control activities are undertaken only by local authorities of larger cities, occasionally by larger communes. Most often, due to the fact that there are no local communal guards, inhabitants having issues with poor air quality are referred to the police, which are most often located far away and only work until 3 p.m. It is therefore necessary to introduce in this respect incentives for municipalities and the possibility of obtaining subsidies from provincial environmental funds for the purposes of the inspections which are carried out. Support is needed for the substantive, financial and legislative areas of the municipalities, consisting in such instruments as strengthening the sanctions to which a commune can apply.
Improvement in health resorts
The air quality assessment by the Environmental Protection Inspectorate for 2019, based on the results of the measurements carried out within the State Environmental Monitoring for particulate matter PM 10 (daily standard), particulate matter PM 2,. (annual average standard) and benzo(a)pyrene (annual average target level) in the health criterion, classified the Subcarpathia province in zone C, i.e., as an area with occurring exceedances. The exception is Rzeszów, which in the area of PM10 (daily and mid-year standard) and PM 2.5 (annual average standard) is classified in zone A, i.e., as an area where no exceedance of the acceptable level occurs. Gaseous pollutants (sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, benzene) in the health protection criterion have reached concentrations that do not exceed the criteria values for these substances. This allowed the entire Subcarpathia province to qualify, in terms of pollution, to class A.1
The significant improvement in air quality in the province, demonstrated in 2019, was largely due to a warmer winter, resulting in a lower heat demand and reduced emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere. Wind has also contributed to improved air quality.
On the basis of this assessment2, 1 area of exceedance was determined for the PM 10 daily standard. It covered 39.8 km2 (0.2% of the region), inhabited by 51,912 inhabitants. Compared to 2018, the area of exceedance decreased by 2.6% of the area of the region, and the population exposed to excessive particulate PM 10 air pollution decreased by 556 787. 1 exceedance area has been designated for the annual average PM 2.5 standard. It covered 10 km2 (0.1% of the region), inhabited by 26,844 inhabitants.
Compared to 2018, the area of exceedance increased by 0.1 % of the area of the region, and the population exposed to excessive PM 2.5 particulate air pollution increased by 26,844. However, for annual average concentrations of benzo(a)pyrene in particulate matter PM 10, the results exceeded the target value at all monitored points. The designated areas of exceedance of this pollution covered 2407.2 km2 (13.5% of the province) inhabited by 1,112,060 inhabitants.
Compared to 2018, the area of exceedance decreased by 56.2% of the area of the region, and the population exposed to excessive particulate PM 10 air pollution decreased by 952,639.
In 2019, against the background of the whole country3, the Subcarpathian province was classified as one of the nine provinces with exceedances of the daily standard for PM 10 particulate matter and one of the 3 provinces in the south of the country had exceedances of the annual average standard for PM2.5. However, in the case of benzo(a)pyrene, the problem at the national level was larger, and concerned almost all provinces (including Subcarpathia) with the exception of Podlaskie and 8 zones within certain cities in the central and northern part of the country.
Air quality improved in the Subcarpathian health resorts, i.e., Rymanów Zdrój, Iwonicz Zdrój, Horyniec Zdrój and Polańczyk in the last few years. The data collected under the PMŚ (State Environmental Monitoring) for 2020 shows that all air quality standards in these areas have been met.4
The local government's obligation to develop the province and implement a corrective air protection programme stems directly from Article 91(3) of the Environmental Law Act. The basis is the result of the measurements of the GIOŚ which clearly indicate that exceedances of the acceptable standards occur in the Subcarpathian province.
From 2013 onwards, corrective air protection programmes were implemented across the Subcarpathian province, which indicated to local authorities the necessary measures to improve air quality. Currently, since October 28, 2020, new corrective programmes adopted by the resolutions of Subcarpathian province’s assembly have been in force:
- No XXVII/463/20 of 28 September 2020 "Air protection programme for the Subcarpathian zone due to detected exceedances of the limit value of PM 10 and 2.5 matter, and the target level of benzo(a)pyrene together with a Short-Term Action Plan".
- No XXVII/464/20 of 28 September 2020 on the formulation of the "Air Protection Programme for the City of Rzeszów", given the identified exceedances of PM 10 and PM 2.5 particulate matter limit, with the extension linked to the achievement of the national target for the reduction of exposure and taking into account the target level Benzo(a)pyrene and the Short-Term Action Plan”.
According to the diagnosis contained in these programmes, the main cause of the exceedances is the combustion of solid fuels including hard coal in old boilers in single-family houses. The main corrective action is to reduce pollutant emissions by changing the heating source. The aim should be to eliminate individual heating using solid fuel and replace it with zero or low carbon heating. Only in areas where it is not technically possible to connect to a heating or gas network, should the replacement of solid fuel boilers meeting the eco-design requirements be allowed. The additional action identified is the creation of a system by the municipal government to support the replacement of heat sources to eco-friendly sources, aimed at natural persons, which, as described in the programmes, should include filing requests for co-funding from the NFOŚiGW and other programmes (e.g. STOP SMOG) to support residents in implementing the action. The implementation of corrective actions proposed in the programmes is expected to last until 30 September 2026. The programme indicates that the communal government is solely responsible for replacing boilers included in its own assets.
The inventory of boilers owned by residents was not taken, so the estimation method used included topographical databases, GUS databases for buildings, data from the 2011 national census of the population and flats, and a database of surfaces heated with specific fuel types and surface emissions, reports on the implementation of corrective actions. The communal authorities were not required to perform an inventory of boilers due to the Central Registry of the Emissivity of Buildings planned to be launched in 2021 under the Integrated Low Emission Reduction System (ZONE) where data entry will be mandatory. This system and the performed surveillance should enable an optimal, continuously updated inventory of boilers to be established.
Control of the degree to which the anti-smog resolution was implemented, compliance with the prohibitions laid down therein, implementation of corrective actions under the programmes and compliance with the statutory ban on incineration of waste play an important role in improving air quality. The absence of controls may result in the failure to achieve the set objectives, i.e., to lower the concentrations of pollutants to at least the standard level.
The current regulations (Article 379 of the Environmental Law) enforce control powers, on, as well as others, the head of commune, mayor, and the city president, who may authorize the staff of their municipal or communal authorities or municipal/communal officials to exercise the control functions. The control powers include:
- 24-hour access, including the access of the valuers and necessary equipment, to the building, facility, or parts thereof where business is conducted, and from 6.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. to the remaining part of the premises,
- carrying out tests or other necessary inspection activities,
- requesting written or oral information and summoning and interviewing persons to the extent necessary to determine the actual state,
- requesting the presentation of documents and any data relating to the issues under control.
The performed inspections may have a significant impact on adapting the heating systems in use to the requirements in force and on changing the fuels used, which will indirectly contribute to improving air quality in the zones. In addition, as part of the audit, an attempt can be made through direct contact with the resident to educate and identify potential financial or technical solutions that can help implement the provisions of the resolution on the anti-smog and air improvement protection programme. The inspections should be carried out by: municipal/communal guards or trained and authorized communal staff. These activities can be carried out by intra-communal guards, the creation of which is a good practice in the case of communes which do not have this type of their own organs yet.
In order to make it easier for communes to report annually on the implementation of the corrective actions set out in the air protection programmes, the local government of the Subcarpathian Province has commissioned the implementation of a website through which they can file the reports automatically. After verification, the entered data is presented in the form of statistics on the map of the province.
Education and information
Poor air quality in the zones of the Subcarpathian province makes ecological education necessary for all social groups. The forms of information provided can be very diverse and, in addition to direct education on air quality, it can include indirect issues such as energy efficiency and opportunities for exchanging sources. It is an essential tool that can contribute to changing the behaviour and habits of residents and identify appropriate actions to improve the quality of the environment.
From 2013 onwards, social benefit organizations have been receiving grants each year from the provincial local government for the implementation of educational activities among children in primary schools. So far, actions have been conducted in schools in Rzeszów, Jarosław, Przemyśl, Rymanów Zdrój, Krosno, Niska, Dębica and Tarnobrzeg, with approximately a total of 4,760 participants. The aim of these actions is to strengthen and perpetuate the right attitude in combating air pollution caused by the incineration of municipal waste and low-quality coal fuel and to promote the replacement of old carbon boilers with V-generation boilers.
Since the anti-smog resolution came into force, the Board of the Subcarpathian Province has been trying to reach as many inhabitants as possible with information about it. Therefore, in 2018 and 2019, Polish TV O/Rzeszów was commissioned to produce and broadcast spots and films promoting the anti-smog resolution and its provisions and obligations under the resolution. In addition, films and spots have been broadcast indicating the possibility of raising money under the "Clean Air Programme" and "Improvement of Air Quality - Where to Look for Money".
In the period 2013-2020 the local government of the Subcarpathian Province commissioned the preparation and maintenance of an electronic information system to "create and maintain a system for informing citizens about the current state of air pollution and its effects on health", the forecast of air quality for the current and the next two days, which was made available on a dedicated website. Until the forecast for the whole country was implemented by GIOŚ, it was also used by the WIOŚ and CZK (Centre for Crisis Management) services.
Information panels, together with a control unit and software, have been installed in the buildings of the eight most polluted cities, displaying data on projected air pollution in the city and materials on air protection programmes, obligations arising from the anti-smog resolution, and the possibility of obtaining financial assistance for boiler replacement. In addition, the programme included the purchase and implementation of a helpdesk located next to the office building.
From 2021, the Board of the Subcarpathian province is planning to assist communal authorities in implementing the anti-smog resolution, by such activities as organizing at least two meetings a year and training for employees and local councils concerning such topics as the anti-smog resolution, reasons for the smog phenomena, air condition in the province, methods of monitoring, the impact of poor air quality on the health of residents and the resulting social and economic costs, morbidity and mortality statistics in Poland and ways of combating smog.
Educational actions will also be implemented aimed at all inhabitants of the province in order to raise public awareness on the harmful effects of burning waste in household furnaces; burning coal in classless boilers, the health and financial consequences of poor air quality, and actions that can and should be taken to improve local air quality. This task will also include informing the residents of the adoption of the anti-smog resolution, its effects and the need to comply with the prohibitions and orders contained in the resolution, informing the residents of the possibility of receiving subsidies and taking advantage of the communal, provincial, and national financial programmes.
In addition, the provincial government is planning to launch a publicly available web platform this year, containing a knowledge base on the anti-smog resolution, air quality and the most effective ways of reducing emissions of pollution into the atmosphere. The platform will promote communes effectively implementing measures aimed at reducing "low emissions".
Regional operational programme
In the years 2014-2020, by way of allocating funds, the government of the Subcarpathia supported actions to counter smog under the Subcarpathian Province Regional Operational Programme (RPO WP), but limited to activities in communes with areas of exceedance. Under act 3.3.1, the implementation of low-carbon plans: umbrella projects – replacement of heat sources – gas and biomass boilers (RES) PLN 65,935 million were allocated and under umbrella projects – replacement of heat sources – V class coal boilers – PLN 16,841 million were allocated. In addition, PLN 38,142 million (total gross cost of over PLN 49 million) was spent on financing the project "Replacement of heat sources in Rzeszów Functional Area (ROF)" implemented by Stowarzyszenie Rzeszowski Obszar Funkcjonalny, covering areas of the following cities and communes: Rzeszów, Boguchwała, Tyczyn, Chmielnik, Czarna (łańcucka), Głogów Małopolski, Krasne, Łańcut Gmina, Łańcut Miasto, and Trzebownisko. The funding granted for the replacement of coal boilers to biomass boilers was also ensured in RES-related umbrella projects – act 3.1: the development of the RES RPO WP – "umbrella projects". The Board of the Province co-financed 33 such projects within the competition, with the amount of more than PLN 320 million and one ROF project for an amount of PLN 36 million. The replacement of coal-fired boilers to gas and biomass boilers was also part of the thermal upgrading of buildings in act 3.2 “energy modernization of buildings”. As a result of 3 contests, 176 projects received co-funding amounting to over PLN 394 million.
However, not all communes which could have received subsidies for the replacement of boilers by their residents have submitted applications. Initially, almost 50% of the province’s communes were not interested in setting up an information and assistance facility to help their residents obtain funds for replacing boilers, despite the possibility of raising funds for financing it under the “Clean Air” programme. Some communal authorities from the Subcarpathian Province do not believe that the problem of poor air quality relates to them, even among communes where tourism plays an important role. They do not see the need to engage in the improvement of air quality and to establish cooperation with the WFOŚiGW by serving residents via the “Clean Air” information and consultation point programme, although it is the only solution through which every resident of the commune can be fully serviced on site. Such a site would be the one-stop place for them to receive a proof of income per household member as well as assistance in filling in and submitting an application for financial support. It follows from that that the communal boards and councils also need education on air quality improvement measures.
Author: TOGETAIR Editors
1Główny Inspektorat Ochrony Środowiska, Departament Monitoringu Środowiska, Regionalny Wydział Monitoringu w Rzeszowie, „Roczna ocena jakości powietrza w województwie podkarpackim za rok 2019”, Rzeszów 2020r.
2Główny Inspektorat Ochrony Środowiska, Departament Monitoringu Środowiska, Regionalny Wydział Monitoringu w Rzeszowie, „Roczna ocena jakości powietrza w województwie podkarpackim za rok 2019”, Rzeszów 2020r.
3Ocena jakości powietrza - roczne oceny jakości powietrza - GIOŚ (gios.gov.pl)
4W oparciu o wyniki pomiarów wykonywanych przez GIOŚ w 2020r. w ramach PMŚ