Lack of action continues in the Valley

vancouver-sun-graphic-full“Health concerns about wood smoke are driving some B.C. municipalities to ban old, inefficient stoves starting as early as next year,” starts the Vancouver Sun article, Wood smoke under fire in B.C. (February 11, 2016).

The story featured three Vancouver Island communities: Duncan, Port Alberni and Courtenay.

And the article highlighted that, although our air is the worst of the bunch, nothing is being done about it.

In Port Alberni, for example, regulations have been passed that require all old fireplaces and non-certified wood stoves to be decommissioned by 2017. The multi-stakeholder Air Quality Council has been tackling the issue since 2003.

In the Cowichan Valley, the regional district completed an airshed protection strategy in 2015. The City of Duncan has passed new bylaws. Old stoves must be removed when a house is sold, only up-to-date wood-burning appliances are allowed in new construction and no burning is allowed during an air quality advisory.

Although our area is the worst, Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) staff noted last February that the region was considering striking an air quality advisory committee; eight months later we are still without any committee or other meaningful action on this issue.

Instead, the CVRD decided in June 2016 that it wanted to study the issue further to determine where the smoke is coming from. They are inclined to believe that smoke from open burning, which the province regulates, is the problem.

However, experts say the data is clear now: a significant contributor of the harmful smoke is residential wood heating, which local governments have the authority to regulate.

As reported in the Sun’s article:

Earle Plain is an air quality meteorologist with the environment ministry based in Nanaimo who issues air quality warnings.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what’s going on when there are no other industrial sources,” says Plain.

Whereas forest fires and slash burning to clear land are often farther away from populated areas, wood smoke from home fires is up close and personal.

“It’s where these emissions are that creates most of the risk in terms of exposure.”

Although larger burns falls under provincial jurisdiction, backyard burning and residential wood heat both fall under local government control.

It is time for CVRD and the three municipalities in the region to stop studying and start acting, for the sake of everyone’s health.


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