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What does a high PM 2.5 reading really mean for Kamloops?

Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment are again raising concerns over Kamloops air quality, especially after several summer smoky sky advisories last summer. (Photo taken July 17, 2014)
January 22, 2015 - 4:31 PM

'DO WE SHUT EVERYTHING DOWN?'

KAMLOOPS - A new report from local physicians has one air quality specialist noting that there is always room for improvement and the focus should be on what steps should be taken, rather than just the number itself.

The Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment released a review of 2014 air quality earlier this week. In it they outline the air quality levels in Kamloops over the year, noting the annual average of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) was once again above the provincial objective and the highest it has been since 2003.

The provincial objective for fine particulate matter is to be below an annual average of eight micrograms per cubic metre. Preliminary numbers show Kamloops just above 9 ug/m3 in 2014 and year end averages for 2013 pegged the PM 2.5 at just below 9 ug/m3.

They point specifically to air quality advisories in both July and August, and then again in November because of forest fires or slash burning. The physicians list prescribed burns, forest fires, mines and mills as the current large sources that are affecting the city.

Air quality meteorologist Ralph Adams says the numbers are not yet finalized, but will likely be close to the numbers the doctors released but admits the fires likely played a big part in the jumps over the summer and fall. As for dealing with numbers above the provincial objective he says it’s not enough to just say what the number is and suggests the group is over-simplifying the data.

“These values are just a value,” he notes. “There’s always room to improve, it doesn’t matter what your value is, you should always be doing what you can to reduce emissions.

“So what does it mean if the current values are above 8? Do we shut down industry? Not allow any further development? No more residential development? What does it mean? Do we shut everything down or work to improve it?”

The physicians group says it wants more monitors and more staff to make sure they stay maintained. Adams says they are working on making that happen and he hopes to be able to move forward with the installation of a second monitor this spring.

“Kamloops currently has a downtown monitor. We have available another air station and we’re currently looking for a home for it,” Adams says. “We have to negotiate…. I’m hoping by thaw we will have an approved home. It’s been over a year.”

Meanwhile the physicians believe the higher particulate rating means the proposed Ajax Mine must be looked at with even more scrutiny.

"We feel the Kamloops Airshed Management Committee should be vetting any proposed developments, as that upwind site will contribute to the pollution of our airshed," the report read. "Similarly, the city and province must seriously address the impact of emissions of PM 2.5 from the proposed KGHM Ajax Mine into an airshed that has for many years exceeded the B.C. ambient air quality objective of 8 ug/m3."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jennifer Stahn at jstahn@infonews.ca or call 250-819-3723. To contact an editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

— This story was updated at 10:13 a.m., Jan. 23 to include the date the photo was taken.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
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