City refutes data in air quality report

WHO data used in article targeting Courtenay was incorrect

Terry Farrell


It appears the city of Courtenay has been a victim of fake news.

A recent article that ran in The Guard- ian targeting Courtenay as having the worst air quality in Canada – and sec- ond-worst in all of North America – has proven to be false.

The article, Pant by numbers: the cities

with the most dangerous air – listed, was published in the UK-based news hub’s Feb. 13 online edition. It was picked up shortly afterward by some local media groups, including the Times Colonist.

Turns out, the data used by was in- correct.

“The WHO database incorrectly reports the annual average fine par- ticulate matter (PM2.5) concentration for Courtenay in 2013 as 17 μg m-3 (micrograms per cubic meter). In fact, the correct number for 2013 was 11.4 μg m-3,” explained a City of Courte- nay press release. “Environment and

Climate Change Canada has requested that the WHO rectify this error.”

“While Courtenay’s fine particulate matter concentrations for 2014 and 2015 were slightly higher than provin- cial objectives, they were lower than both Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standard (CAAQS) and WHO stan- dards.”

Mayor Larry Jangula, who was quoted in the Time Colonist article as saying it was “… a completely bogus study, in my mind,” was hammered on social media threads for denouncing the study.

He said he feels vindicated by these latest developments.

“I do,” he said. “I took a lot of heat on this, and am still taking a lot of heat on this. But I am very pleased, and I am very thankful to Don McRae and the ministry staff in Vic- toria who came to help us on this one.”

Jangula credited McRae with initiating the investigation into the WHO data. McRae was not available for comment.

Jangula said that he under- stands the air quality in Cour- tenay is not as high as people would like to see, but a lot of the air quality issues are not from anything happening with- in the city boundaries.

“I just had a lady leave my office a minute ago, who lives in Crown Isle,” he said in an interview Thursday. “She was complaining about the smoke in Crown Isle. That can’t be caused by anything we do in Courtenay, because most of the city of Courtenay is on nat- ural gas, or some other form of heat, and all of Crown Isle, there is no wood-burning al- lowed in Crown Isle.

“What got me in trouble, and I reiterate it now, I denied that we were the worst, or second-worst place in North America for wood smoke.” – MAYOR LARRY JANGULA

“So that’s why I have asked the ministry, before making sweeping statements about air quality in Courtenay, to have monitoring stations, at least one, in East Courtenay, and one in Comox. To brand the whole Valley with one moni- toring station…I’m not say- ing that wood stoves are not (a culprit) and I’m not saying that there are not areas of this city that do not have air quality issues at certain times. I would not say that. But what got me in trouble, and I reiterate it now, I denied that we were the worst, or second-worst place in North America for wood smoke.”

Jangula believes the majority of the air quality issues don’t come from wood-burning stoves. They come from the slash burning taking place in the rural areas.

“No question, to me… I think that is your problem. It’s not wood burning in the city of Courtenay. It’s all the slash burning done by the province and by the regional district… they burn for days and days when they get going.”

The Ministry of Environment maintains that wood smoke from wood stoves and outdoor open burning is a significant contributor to PM2.5 levels in several British Columbia com- munities, including the Comox Valley.

Open burning has been banned in the City of Courte- nay since 2008.

Jangula said Port Alberni Mayor Mike Ruttan brought up the issue at the Associa- tion of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities conven- tion last year, looking to get the province to ban slash burning around municipalities.

When asked whether the City of Courtenay would pursue a similar request to the province, Jangula said it has to be con- sidered.

“I think in light of this newest issue, yes, it’s something that we need to take forward to the province and ask that there be some kind of legislation; that this burning no longer be al- lowed anywhere in proximity of municipalities.”

Jangula said that there is an- other thing to consider when putting pressure on homes to stop using wood as a heat source, or to upgrade their wood stoves: Cost.

“If we just automatically but a ban on wood stoves, that would be a war on the poor,” he said. “We have people that live in (certain areas) that are not in as wealthy of homes, or as valuable of homes, as in east Courtenay and Crown Isle. A lot of those are older homes that do burn wood. And a lot of these people, to comply with what a lot of these groups want, they would all have to put in these (home) heat exchang- ers, and I understand they are around $15,000.”

As for the beating he took on social media, Jangula said a thick skin is required in his line of work.

“There are just some people who see things one way and they are not going to see things any other way, thank you very much. I tend not to spend a lot of time on those people be- cause there are some people you just can’t convince.”

–With files from The City of Courtenay



Just Posted

Multiple complaints filed to Town of Comox against accordion player

Comox received multiple complaints regarding accordion music in a freedom of information request

Comox Change the Debate event set for Wednesday night in Marina Park

Event in solidarity with others across Canada to demand a leaders’ debate on climate change on CBC

Waiting game for Cumberland cannabis licence hopefuls

Applicants gained local support but are going through checks with province

Comox Valley’s music fest feels like ‘best ever’ to organizer

Vancouver Island Music Festival didn’t sell out but still saw strong turnout

Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman sentenced to life in prison

Experts say he will likely wind up at the federal government’s Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado

Survivor of near-drowning in B.C. lake viewing life through new eyes

“If I died that day, the baby wouldn’t know his dad,” said 31-year-old Mariano Santander-Melo.

‘Beyond the call’: Teen in police custody gets birthday surprise by B.C. Mountie

Unusual celebration started when Staff Sgt. Paul Vadik went to visit the teen in his Coquitlam cell

Thunderstorms forecast across B.C.

Environment Canada has issued a thunderstorm watch for B.C.’s central Interior

Driver who killed B.C. motorcyclist receives absolute discharge

Chase family speechless following decision by BC Review Board

Lower gas prices slow annual inflation rate to Bank of Canada’s 2% bull’s-eye

Prices showed strength in other areas — led by a 17.3 per cent increase in the cost of fresh vegetables

B.C. moves to preserve 54 of its biggest, oldest trees

Fir, cedar, spruce, pine, yew set aside from logging

Report of dead body in B.C. park actually headless sex doll

This discovery, made at Manning Park on July 10, led police to uncovering two other sex mannequins

Grand Forks fire chief found to have bullied, harassed volunteer firefighter: report

WorkSafeBC, third-party human resources investigation looking into allegations complete

Most Read