LETTER: Comox Valley choking on the smoke

Dear editor,

As I drove down Ryan Road hill on Saturday from doing chores, I looked at the mountains shrouded in mist and they were quite picturesque. My gaze lowered, and a more disturbing vista of all the treetops of the valley choking on wood fire smoke came into view. The smell of incomplete combustion of wood filled the air.

This heavy airborne particulate matter is a public health issue on top of being a nuisance. We have some of the worst air in the country. I have seen many chimneys in the valley spewing smoke constantly, instead of an initial startup and then proper burning temperature not releasing smoke. In addition, slash pile burning is a major contributor to this problem and needs to be banned outright. The logging companies have to come up with a better way; e.g. chipping and making wood pellets for pellet stoves. Slash pile burning is certainly more efficient for them; however, it’s no longer environmentally or socially acceptable to release noxious gasses poisoning your neighbours.

The subsidy program attempting to lure people into using natural gas or high efficiency fireplaces/woodstoves is obviously not working. The subsidy is relatively low and there can be a significant cost to converting. I propose that the rebates need to be increased substantially, and the cost distributed across all CVRD taxpayers to better incentivize and accomplish conversion. This is an issue that affects all of us.

The elected officials in this valley need to become more aggressive regarding the shutting down of inefficient wood-burning appliances and the banning of slash pile burning up to and including fines for offenders. We need consequences for refusal to improve the air we breathe. If they will not act, then they need to be replaced in this year’s municipal election. Hoping for people to comply is ineffective.

Finally, I don’t understand the phenomenon where if a tree is to be cut down for development, there is massive outcry. However, if trees are cut down to burn or to make lumber, then that’s fine. This behaviour seems hypocritical to me.

Maurice Levert

Courtenay

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