Vivian ChuiOmineca Express
Vanderhoof residents may be breathing dirtier air than they think they are in the past three years, according to a recent report.
The Ministry of Environment’s first air quality report for the Central Interior Air Zone — including nearby communities such as Prince George, Quesnel, Williams Lake, and Smithers — states that Vanderhoof’s air pollutant levels have exceeded national standards from 2011 to 2013.
With data collected from 10 monitors in the area, Vanderhoof and Smithers are the two communities found to have a high 24-hour average amount of fine particulates, while the annual average amount is also high in Vanderhoof.
The district council will work with the ministry to understand why first, said Tom Clement, Vanderhoof’s Chief Administrative Officer.
“One of the things is that Vanderhoof and Smithers are the only two along the northern route that have a newer monitoring system,” Clement said. “There maybe something in that.”
According to the report, higher concentration of fine particulates are expected with the new monitors because they account for the amount that older measuring procedures may lose.
As Vanderhoof’s monitor is currently located on top of the district’s courthouse, the council is looking to do additional monitoring in case of skewed data, Clement added.
“This is definitely a warning to us that we need to do something,” he said. “The environment committee will investigate it, and come back to council with answers to questions why and what can we do to improve.”
While Vanderhoof shares the same air quality concerns as the rest of the northern community — including industrial emissions, wood burning, and transportation — the most of concern to the district is wood smoke and road dust, said Angela Wheeler, Northern Health’s team lead in environmental health.
“The general advisory is mainly for people with existing respiratory concerns, to limit time outside or exercise,” Wheeler said, as poor air quality may lead to further irritation.
However, she added that it may not be a concern for the everyday air consumer.
“I exercise outside regardless of air quality, but I consider myself an average healthy person.”