The Sea-to-Sky Clean Air Society will ask the province’s Ministry of Environment to review the site of the air quality monitoring station for the greater Gibsons area.
The monitoring station is currently located at Langdale Elementary School because of its close proximity to Howe Sound Pulp and Paper at Port Mellon.
That location, Gibsons Coun. Lee Ann Johnson said at council’s Oct. 15 committee of the whole meeting, has been a longstanding concern to area residents.
“People were quite concerned that the mill emissions are experienced more readily from the top of Gibsons — Upper Gibsons over into Elphinstone — than they are in Langdale,” Johnson told Kim Slater, executive director of the Sea-to-Sky Clean Air Society. “So people can smell mill smells in those areas, but when you go into Langdale, nothing.”
Johnson said the Town had asked Ministry of Environment officials in the past to look at changing the monitoring station site, but the issue “just petered off into nothing and disappeared.”
Slater, who was appearing as a delegation at the meeting, said she would go back to the Ministry and try to address the issue.
Apart from Langdale, monitoring stations in the Howe Sound region are currently located in Squamish, Whistler, Horseshoe Bay, Lions Bay and Pemberton.
Monitoring in Gibsons has been limited to filter-based testing between July 2008 and June 2009, which found some elevated levels of particulate matter, but nothing exceeding B.C.’s ambient air quality objectives (AAQO) that would trigger an air quality advisory.
For Langdale, Slater said in her report, the air quality was generally considered good for 2012. While most contaminants were “well below levels of concern,” total reduced sulphur sometimes exceeded hourly AAQO levels, creating a “noticeable odour,” and some elevated levels of particulate matter were also detected.
Slater’s presentation included the society’s funding request for 2014, set at last year’s level of $1,160. It would be the last year that funding from local government members would be sought, she told the committee, as the society is planning to shift to alternative funding models.
Coun. Gerry Tretick compared Gibsons’ contribution to that of West Vancouver ($800), Islands Trust ($90), and Lions Bay ($345).
“We’re doing something,” Tretick said. “I have no idea what those others that are paying less are doing.”
Tretick said he would like to see a report card on clean air measures that have been undertaken by the funding partners.
“I look outside my window over at Keats Island and I see big plumes of smoke coming up,” he said. “In Gibsons there is no backyard burning. Yet we’re paying a lot of money towards clean air and for some reason it doesn’t seem to be getting across to other communities.”
Slater said those concerns would be addressed through the society’s air quality management plan. As well, relevant bylaws from member municipalities and regional districts have been posted on the society’s web page.
Coun. Dan Bouman noted that, except for West Vancouver, all other local governments were contributing on a per capita basis, with both District of Squamish and Squamish Lillooet Regional District chipping in, at a rate of $4,485 and $842 respectively.
“I think that’s a pretty interesting breakdown in contributions,” Bouman said. “It speaks to the importance of the issue in all of these areas.”
Another issue raised by both Tretick and Johnson was the absence of the Sunshine Coast Regional District as a funding partner, with Tretick calling it “a rather large omission.”
Johnson also complained that BC Ferries has failed to enforce anti-idling rules in its Langdale parking lot, despite requests from the ferry advisory committee to curb emissions.
Slater said the issue is “something that’s on our radar.”