By Andrew Mitchell
Sea to Sky communities have been working with the Ministry of
the Environment since 2005 to develop a regional air quality management plan,
recognizing the growing threat to air quality in the corridor.
The air quality still remains quite good, compared to many
areas of the province. However, given the likelihood that the population of the
corridor will almost double over the next 25 years, the growth of tourism, and
the corresponding increase in highway traffic, the Ministry of the Environment
encouraged communities to come up with a plan to address air quality before it
becomes an issue.
According to regional meteorologist Cindy Walsh, one of two
Ministry representatives on the Sea to Sky Air Quality Coordinating Committee,
the corridor was close to receiving its first air quality advisory this past
“Squamish is generally the worst for particulate, to the point
where we were close to the threshold where we would issue an advisory,” said
Walsh, who gave an update on the status of the air quality management strategy
at a Tuesday open house.
“Whistler has more of a concern with ozone, but we’re still not
at the level yet that it would be a real concern.
“That said, air quality is a growing health problem, and not
just for children and the elderly. Everybody has different sensitivities, and
as far as we know there’s no safe level of exposure.”
About 80 per cent of all air pollution, including particulate
and ozone, is generated by vehicles, although Walsh says concentrations will
decrease as gas companies produce cleaner-burning fuels and phase out some
harmful ingredients. As well, vehicles themselves have potential to become more
efficient and produce less pollution.
Industry is also a source of pollution, but one that is being
addressed by the companies themselves.
Probably the most challenging source of pollution is wood
burning stoves and burning. Burning is already regulated in parts of the
corridor, but Walsh says it might be necessary to better coordinate plans to
determine where burning can take place and when. As for wood stoves, newer
stoves are generally more efficient and produce less pollution than older models.
People should also be conscious of the problem, she says, and use wood stoves
The committee has put together a list of 18 recommendations to
address air quality. People in corridor communities will be able to make their
comments online at
for the next few months, after which point the committee members will put
together a final draft in early 2007 for approval by local and regional
governments. The goal is to start implementing the final recommendations as
soon as possible.
When it comes to transportation, the current list of
recommendations suggests integrating local transit systems, lobbying transit
providers to reduce vehicle emissions, promoting public transportation to
residents and visitors, reducing vehicle idling through education and bylaws,
promoting the use of the best available technology and equipment for
construction and industry, investigating the impact of off-road vehicle
emissions, and promoting improvements in vehicle emissions performance. The
last suggestion would be partly achieved with something similar to the Air Care
program in the Lower Mainland.
For area source polluters, such as woodstoves, the plan
recommends developing an airshed-wide smoke control strategy, as well as
assisting in the development of greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.
For point source polluters, including industrial sources, the
plan recommends ensuring that power generation in the airshed supports the
strategy, and working with the local pulp and paper industry to reduce
Other recommendations include expanding current air quality initiatives, promoting the use of alternative energy sources and systems, sharing information on the Sea to Sky Air Quality Website, implementing a public outreach and education campaign, coordinating with other organizations, developing the business case for air quality actions, and incorporating the strategy in other plans throughout the corridor.