B.C. government releases report on Courtenay air quality and meteorology patterns

B.C. government releases report on Courtenay air quality and meteorology patterns

The report confirms that Courtenay’s fine particulate matter levels exceed the provincial objectives

A recent report from the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy confirms what most people in Courtenay already know: that the city’s air quality is not up to par with the rest of the province.

The report, titled “Patterns of Air Quality and Meteorology in Courtenay,” is one of the latest of several studies devoted to examining the Comox Valley’s air quality. Released in early November and written by air quality meteorologist Earle Plain, the study analyzes patterns in ambient air quality in Courtenay and how it is affected by meteorological conditions.

Measurements were collected between 2011 and the end of 2016 from an air quality monitoring station located by Courtenay Elementary School.

The report confirms that the mean annual and daily levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) are higher in Courtenay than the B.C. average and exceed provincial objectives. The levels of PM2.5 are particularly high from November to February, according to Plain.

“It just confirms a lot of the things that have been coming out over the last few years and is another piece of information that local decision makers can use,” he said.

Read More: Courtenay looking into air quality control measures.

The report also found that air quality is at its worst in the evenings and at night.

An emissions inventory for the Comox Valley was completed in March this year to identify the sources of fine particulates. The inventory found that 35.5 per cent of PM2.5 came from residential wood stoves and 45.4 per cent came from open burning. Eighty per cent of PM2.5 in the opening burning category came hazard abatement practices within the forestry sector.

The study’s findings were not surprising to Breathe Clean Air Comox Valley (BCACV), a group of volunteers that advocates for air quality education and lobbies local governments regarding the issue.

Read More: Comox Valley Group bringing air quality to the forefront.

“This study adds even more information and ammunition to [the fact that] we have a serious problem and we have to take action. Let’s stop studying it and start acting,” said Jennell Ellis, a volunteer with BCACV.

“We need political leaders that will acknowledge that we do have a problem and do something about it. There are lots of possibilities.”

The Comox Valley Regional District participates in a provincial wood stove exchange program that provides rebates to people who exchange their wood-burning appliances for cleaner heating options.

Other than that program, open-air burning is either regulated or banned within municipal limits. Open burning has been banned in Courtenay since 2008, according to the city’s website.

The CVRD added extra incentives to the wood stove exchange program this year, as part of a three-year air quality education program. People who exchange their wood stoves for electric heat pumps or natural gas appliances can receive larger rebates than if they were to simply upgrade to a newer wood stove.

Read More: CVRD adds incentives to the wood stove exchange program.

But despite the program’s expansion, Ellis says the rebate program is just “a drop in the bucket” when it comes to improving the Comox Valley’s air quality.

“This year, it has been great to see that there are rebates for heat pumps for the first time and rebates for gas,” she said. “That’s a move in the right direction. But for the number of wood stoves we have in the community, that rebate program would take decades and decades to make any meaningful difference.”

Ellis also mentioned that even though forestry-related open burning accounts for more fine particulate matter than smoke from wood stoves, it mainly occurs outside municipal boundaries and is fairly regulated compared to residential heating.

Alongside PM2.5 levels, Plain’s report also measured the concentrations of ground-level ozone and nitrogen dioxide in Courtenay from 2011–2016. Plain wrote that those gases were not at concerning levels.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A WestJet flight on the runway leaving Comox. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Aviation company seeks contracted employees to fill former WestJet roles at YQQ

Menzies Aviation from Edinburgh Park, Scotland, operates in 34 countries across the world

A cougar was spotted Monday near Queneesh Elementary. (WildSafe BC photo)
Cougar sighted Monday near Courtenay school

Conservation officers are warning the public to avoid the wooded areas around… Continue reading

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
SD71 to address COVID-19 exposures with virtual town hall

The meeting is set for Thursday, March 4

Courtenay Elementary is the latest school on a growing list that has COVID-19 exposures. Google Maps photo
Courtenay Elementary latest school on growing list of COVID-19 exposures

Exposure dates at the school on McPhee Avenue are Feb. 22, 23 and 24

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Tofino Resort and Marina has temporarily shut down after several staff members tested positive for COVID-19. (Nora O’Malley photo)
COVID-19 confirmed at Tofino Resort and Marina

Resort apologizes to Hesquiaht First Nation for Valentine’s Day boating incident.

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hills using a homemade trip camera. Vancouver Island is home to approximately 800 cougars, which makes up about a quarter of the total population in B.C. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Wildlife advocate Gary Schroyen captured this picture of a one-year-old cougar in the Sooke Hill using a homemade trip camera. Schroyen presents Animal Signs: The Essence of Animal Communication on Nov. 30. (Gary Schroyen photo)
Declining Vancouver Island cougar populations linked to wolves

Large carnivore specialist says human development still plays biggest role on cougar numbers

Most Read