A new group called Breathe Clean Air Comox Valley wants to educate the public and inspire politicians to take further action to improve local air quality.
A core of about 20 members initiated the group last fall when reports indicated the Valley had some of the poorest air quality in B.C. Recent State of the Air reports by the BC Lung Association show the Courtenay station is among the worst of 40-plus stations in the province in terms of PM 2.5 (fine particulate matter) levels.
This winter, the group notes that three local multi-day air quality advisories have been issued.
Breathe Clean Air Comox Valley feels air quality is more pressing than the issue of turbidity in the water, considering residents can at least boil water.
“There’s no protection, even within our homes,” group member Beverly Campbell said. “The Comox Valley area is particularly bad in B.C., probably because a lot of people are using wood-burning stoves, but also because lumber companies on the surrounding hillsides are burning slash. The farmers are, too.”
The regional district offers a wood stove exchange program. Government funding has enabled the CVRD to offer 40 rebates of $250 to homeowners who switch old wood-burning appliances to newer ones.
“That program needs to be expanded,” Campbell said. “The politicians need to be educated a bit more. Unfortunately in B.C. there’s an extra level of government, which is the regional district. Everybody points fingers at each other.”
Barbara Price, a Comox director on the CVRD board, says the wood stove exchange program is “one small step in the right direction” as the district tries to address air quality issues.
She lauds the efforts of Breathe Clean Air Comox Valley.
“It’s always good to see a new volunteer stewardship group emerge,” Price said.
“Air quality is without doubt, a very important part of a healthy community.”
The group would like the CVRD to develop a regional airshed protection strategy — which has been implemented in the Cowichan Valley Regional District. Among other concerns, the Cowichan document notes a 70 per cent higher hospital admission rate for children with respiratory diseases than the rest of B.C. from 1998 to 2012, according to Island Health data. In addition, asthma rates in the Cowichan Valley were 14 per cent higher and chronic respiratory illness in people over 45 was 50 per cent higher.
The Breathe Clean Air group encourages the public to contact politicians about the issue.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or find Breathe Clean Air Comox Valley on Facebook.