Measuring Visual Opacity Using Digital Imaging Technology
UTAH STATE UNIV LOGAN DEPT OF CIVIL AND ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency EPA Reference Method 9 Method 9 is the preferred enforcement approach for verifying facility compliance with federal visible opacity standards. Supporters of Method 9 have cited its flexibility and low cost as important technological and economic advantages of the methodology. The Digital Opacity Compliance System DOCS, an innovative technology that employs digital imaging technology for quantifying visible opacity, has been proposed as a technically defensible and economically competitive alternative to Method 9. Results from the field application of the DOCS at EPA-approved Method 9 smoke schools located in Ogden, UT, Augusta, GA, and Columbus, OH, demonstrated that, under clear sky conditions, the DOCS consistently met the opacity error rate established under Method 9. Application of hypothesis testing on the smoke school data set confirmed that the DOCS was equivalent to Method 9 under clear sky conditions. Under overcast sky conditions, human observers seemed to be more accurate than the DOCS in measuring opacity. However, within the smoke school environment, human observers routinely employ backgrounds other than sky e.g., trees, telephone poles, billboards to quantify opacity on overcast days. Under conditions that compel the use of sky as plume background e.g., emission stacks having heights above the tree line, the DOCS appears to be a more accurate methodology for quantifying opacity than are human observers.