KAMLOOPS - A local physicians group, formed in large part to respond to the proposed Ajax Mine, continues to push for more air quality monitoring before the city becomes even ‘worse than Prince George.’
The Kamloops Physicians for Healthy Environment Society released a report today, Feb. 24, on the 2015 air quality in Kamloops. Prepared by economics professor Peter Tsigaris and retired atmospheric physics specialist Robert Schemenauer, the report looks at the measurements taken at the downtown monitoring station and compares the values to other Interior cities.
“Kamloops is at a fork in the road,” the physicians say in a release. “Making a choice to add a significant source of fine particulate emissions to our airshed will make Kamloops even worse in air quality… may also make us worse than Prince George in terms of airborne fine particulate concentrations.”
The data in the report shows the average fine particulate concentration lower during most months of 2015, compared to 2014. Only April, June, August and October had higher averages and the annual average, 8.5 micrograms per cubic metre, came in below 2014 and even the historical average, which includes data back to 1998.
The report notes 11 days where the 24-hour average exceeded 20 micrograms per cubic metre, all of which happened during summer wildfires or during open burning in November. In total 30 days exceeded a daily average of 15 micrograms per cubic metre, with many of those days falling during November or other winter months when inversions dominate the valley.
The fine particulate measurements exceeded the annual provincial average on 151 days, or 41 per cent of the year, the report notes, with the highest hourly value coming in at 188 micrograms per cubic metre on Aug. 23.
The provincial objective is 8.0 micrograms per cubic metre, with a provincial goal of lowering the concentration to 6.0 micrograms per cubic metre.
The group also compares the numbers they correlated to the ones used by KGHM in the Ajax Mine environmental application and says the company used only measurements from a system that is ‘biased low’ and gives the impression air quality ‘was better during that period than it really was’.
The report also compares the numbers from the downtown station to those at the new Aberdeen station, which has only been in operation near Pacific Way Elementary since October 2015, and finds the particulate matter in the Aberdeen air to be about half of what is found downtown. Even then, the report says that number, 5.1 micrograms per cubic metre on average, is higher than ‘one would expect in areas free of urban or industrial pollution’.
Looking at 2015 numbers, the report shows Kamloops as having better air quality, on an annual average, than Kelowna, Vernon and Prince George, though it is noted the Okanagan regions were more impacted by forest fires last year. During slash burning in the November and in the spring, Kamloops was significantly higher than Kelowna and Vernon as well.
The report also looks at different types of pollutants found at the downtown monitoring station and the seasonal variability of those pollutants.
KGHM Ajax Mining Inc. officially submitted the environmental application last month and the review and public comment periods are underway. In plain language summaries released by the company, KGHM says the project will have ‘little effect on the overall air quality in Kamloops’.
If approved, the open-pit copper and gold mine will operate immediately southwest of the city boundary.
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— This story was updated at 4:55 p.m., Feb. 24, 2016, to the reference to the provincial objective.