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Courtenay paying its share of air quality monitoring costs

Based on its population, the City of Courtenay will pay about $2,600 per year as part of an agreement with other local governments to operate the air quality monitoring station near Courtenay Elementary School.

The city agreed Monday to partner with the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) in the annual operating costs of the Air Quality Monitoring Station Maintenance Program for the Comox Valley.

The annual operating budget for the station will be $7,000 or less, and Courtenay's annual operating contribution will be equal to a population-based proportional share of that amount.

The CVRD board passed a resolution to support installing a permanent air quality monitoring station last September, and the station was installed near Courtenay Elementary School this spring at a cost of about $100,000 — which was paid by the provincial government.

This station gathers air quality information in Courtenay that is used to create the Air Quality Health Index for the Comox Valley — a public information tool that assists residents in planning to protect their health from the negative effects of any air pollution that may be present on a daily basis, financial services director Tillie Manthey explained in her report to council.

The information also supports local initiatives related to monitoring the effect of wood stove and open burning on air quality, she noted.

The monitoring station measures fine particulate matter in the air from smoke, transportation exhaust and other sources. It also measures ground-level ozone and nitrogen oxides, which are two key indicators of air quality, explained Manthey.

Live data from the station is available on the BC Air Quality website at www.bcairquality.com.

The Comox Valley station is the first provincial air quality monitoring station and is part of a network of 150 stations throughout the province, according to Manthey.

Total ongoing maintenance and operating costs are in the range of $10,000 per year. The Ministry of Environment will fund $3,000, with the remaining $7,000 funded by the CVRD.

The CVRD board passed a resolution to fund the $7,000 from the Area A, B and C community works/gas tax grant for the 2010 calendar year. For 2011 and forward, the board is asking Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland to consider contributing a proportionate share of the $7,000.

Based on population, the City of Courtenay has been asked to contribute $2,590 — or 37 per cent of the operating costs of $7,000, explained Manthey, adding that Courtenay's proportionate share will vary over time as population patterns change.

Coun. Jon Ambler was happy to endorse the agreement because the station provides facts upon which council can make decisions and because by participating in the agreement with a proportionate share, the City is continuing with the principle that Courtenay pays its fair share for things.

"When we do it this time, then when other governments and when other bodies in the Comox Valley are asked for money ... we can show we always pay our fair share, and I think that's a position we should take and a position we should protect," he said.

When Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard looked at the historical data on the BC Air Quality website, it suggested the city's air quality is quite good.

"As Coun. Ambler said, it's a matter of collecting data, and we're relatively small right now, but we're growing," she said. "Different things can come on the scene and change the situation, so it's good to have that baseline of information, and I think that's a really important piece of the puzzle."

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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