An air quality meteorologist with the Ministry of Environment said local governments have to be actively engaged in airshed planning.
“What goes on in the planning department can be very important,” said Ralph Adams during a workshop held at Scout Island Nature Centre in Williams Lake recently. “A planning department decides on construction permits and things like dust control. They are the ones that can look at transportation and infrastructure and they are the ones that can deal with zoning.”
In Williams Lake there is currently one air quality monitoring station at the Lake City Secondary School Columneetza campus that was refurbished in October 2017.
“It measures ozone, hydrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, PM10 and PM2.5 and we have moved the weather instruments from Canadian Tire to Columneetza so we now have wind speed, wind direction, and temperature being measured there,” Adams said. “We have also moved the precipitation gauge there.”
When asked why the monitoring station is placed at Columneetza Adams said the ministry tries to install them in places where there are lots of homes and people so as to get an idea what people are breathing in.
Daily and hourly readings from the monitoring station are available online by going to the air quality data government of B.C. website.
Adams said it is unlikely the city will get another monitoring station as they are very expensive, however, there is new portable equipment that is less expensive that can be moved around a community to investigate hot spots or a specific source.
“In Quesnel, they have the main station at Quesnel Senior Secondary, and next week will be installing an instrument with e-band that is free standing and plugs into a regular extension cord and can be moved around from year to year.”
A movable instrument would be good for Williams Lake, Adams said.
“But in order to do that you have to develop partnerships with local government and industry in order to pay for them.”
He said in Ontario, air quality monitoring stations are only installed in cities with more than 100,000 people.
Former city councillor and mayoral candidate Surinderpal Rathor said when he was in office he received more complaints about Pinnacle Pellet than any other industrial business and asked Adams about its emissions.
Adams responded that people should be concerned because of the visible effects on tourism and also the odors, but said he did not think there is much evidence that the current level of emissions are having a significant effect.
“Based on what I’ve seen around other pellet plants, we could not find any link between air quality down wind,” Adams said. “I’d say the main concerns are visibility and odor.”
Jenny Noble attended the workshop and said Adams answered a lot of questions she had about pollutants that threaten air quality and impact health.
“He stressed the invisibly small particles and liquid droplets comprising PM2.5 that result from all combustion,” Noble said.
“They impact our lungs forever, and can cross into the bloodstream causing cardiovascular problems.”
Noble said Adams referred to research showing that long-term exposure, even in low quantities, is more damaging than even short-term high-level exposures like forest fire smoke.
“Further research aims to determine whether that’s true when forest fires occur year after year,” she added.
She said she was disappointed he did not talk about the issue of rail tie burning proposed at Atlantic Power.
However, during his presentation, Adams said he could not address the issue until the appeal process through the Environmental Appeal Board is completed.