Scout Island Nature Centre is hosting a smoke and air quality awareness information session on Sept. 27 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Billed the ‘PM 2.5 Smoke and Air Quality Awareness Workshop,’ Scout Island Nature Centre has been working on raising awareness on the air quality issue in Williams Lake for the last five years through education and spreading the word.
However, according to executive director Sue Hemphill, they only started to gain traction in last two years in wake of the heavy smoke from nearby forest fires.
Hemphill said that they’ve traditionally had trouble getting people to use proper wood-burning stoves, which account for over 50 per cent of the pollution in Williams Lake, and to stop idling, in addition to other emission-reducing steps.
“It’s been quite a struggle to get people to pay attention to such things because it’s often out of sight out of mind. When our air is bad, people remember, but when our air is good they don’t remember or do things about it,” Hemphill said.
The workshop will have 40 spaces available for free on a first come first served basis, and will be run by Ralph Adams, a Ministry of Environment air quality meteorologist and member of Williams Lake Air Quality Roundtable.
In addition to his public workshop, Adams will also be proving one for the City of Williams Lake on Sept. 26.
He will be discussing how terrain and wind patterns can affect air quality; methods individuals can take to improve the air quality, what different levels of smoke pollution means and the long-term health effects of exposure. Hemphill thinks this will be particularly valuable as she feels people don’t comprehend how much it can affect them even if they don’t have asthma or a similar breathing condition.
“During the smoky times, I’d often be in a store talking to someone, getting information and people were struggling to think. Just because your brain wasn’t getting enough oxygen,” Hemphill said.
“On days where we don’t have thick smoke in the air though we can still have pollution and its still affecting us.”
Hemphill hopes that this workshop will change both the conversation about how air quality is maintained and ultimately laws regarding it.
For example, she suggested maybe wood burning stoves shouldn’t be allowed on inversion days, when a layer of hot air traps cold air in the bowl of Williams Lake Air Shed, increasing the effects of the pollution.
To this end, Hemphill said she is in the process of arranging for the workshop to be put to video and put on the local community TV station for more widespread community consumption. She also has early plans to put in online on YouTube though she advises those who want information now to check out breatheeasywilliamslake.org.