News

Air quality warning issued for Comox Valley

The Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with the Vancouver Island Health Authority, has issued an air quality advisory for Courtenay/Comox/Cumberland because of high concentrations of fine particulates that are expected to persist for the next three days.

Persons with chronic underlying medical conditions should postpone strenuous exercise until the advisory is lifted.

Staying indoors and in air conditioned spaces helps to reduce fine particulate exposure. Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have diabetes, lung or heart disease.

Open burning restrictions are now in effect for the Comox Valley within 15 kilometres of Courtenay City Hall for a period of three days. No new fires may be initiated and no additional material may be added to existing fires.

Tips to reduce your personal health risk:

• Avoid areas with wood smoke.

• Continue to control medical conditions such as asthma, chronic respiratory disease and heart failure. If symptoms continue to be bothersome, seek medical attention.

• Maintaining good overall health is a good way to reduce health risks resulting from short-term exposure to air pollution.

Additional tips for those with chronic underlying medical conditions:

• Stay indoors, keep windows and doors closed and reduce indoor sources of pollution such as smoking, vacuuming and use of wood stoves.

• Run an air cleaner. Some room air cleaners, such as HEPA filters, can help reduce indoor particulate levels provided they are the right size for your home and filters are changed regularly.

• Take shelter in air-conditioned buildings which have large indoor volumes and limited entry of outdoor air.

Mandatory Emission Reduction Actions:

• As pollution may occur from open burning, the director has suspended the exemption in the Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation (Sections 2(i) and 4(2)(a)) that allows for open burning of debris to occur without a permit or approval from the Ministry of Environment. For the next three days, no new fires may be initiated in the Comox Valley within a 15 kilometre radius from Courtenay City Hall and pursuant to Section 4(2)(c) of the Regulation, no additional material may be added to existing fires. Contravention of these provisions may be subject to a fine under the Regulation.

Voluntary Emission Reduction Actions:

• Avoid the use of wood stoves and fireplaces unless the sole source of residential heat.

• Where wood stoves or fireplaces are the sole source of residential heat, use only CSA/EPA emissions approved wood-burning appliances and well-cured wood, and ensure an adequate supply of combustion air.

• Follow local backyard burning bylaws.

• Avoid backyard burning where a bylaw does not exist.

• Reduce the use and idling of vehicles.

Additional Information:

• The fine particulate (PM2.5) concentration averaged over 24 hours, was 36 micrograms per cubic metre as of 3 p.m. Jan. 12. This exceeds the provincial air quality objective of 25 micrograms per cubic metre.

• Sources of fine particulates contributing to this air quality episode include wood smoke, (wood stoves and/or open burning), as well as emissions from commercial activities, and transportation sources such as motor vehicles and marine traffic.

• Wood smoke concentrations are expected to be higher during the evening, overnight and early morning hours, and should improve during the daylight hours. Degraded air quality is expected to continue until there is a change in the current weather system.

Real-time air quality information from Courtenay and other B.C. communities can be found at www.bcairquality.ca.

— Ministry of Environment

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