The Cowichan Valley Regional District is encouraging residents to avoid open burning on their properties and embrace alternative ways to dispose of yard waste for the health of local residents.
CVRD chairman Aaron Stone said that with the increased frequency that residents are exposed to wildfire smoke during the summers, it is extra important that residents do what they can to reduce the exposure to smoke pollution in the winter months.
“We know that wood smoke has negative health impacts and we want to encourage residents to use alternatives to open burning,” he said.
A CVRD press release said air is a precious resource that we often take for granted.
Adults take about 20,000 breaths per day and children breathe almost twice as much as an adult.
“During the fall and winter, the air quality in the Cowichan Valley deteriorates with the increased use of wood stoves and smoke from outdoor burning,” the release said.
“While wood stove use and backyard burns are common in other areas, in the Cowichan Valley we have to work extra hard to reduce smoke pollution as the valley topography and unique winter weather conditions often traps smoke here.”
Dr. Shannon Waters, the local medical health officer with Island Health, added that the Cowichan Valley region has higher rates of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma compared to the rest of Vancouver Island and compared to B.C. overall, which makes the region more vulnerable as a community to the effects of outdoor burning and wood stove smoke.
She said that every bit residents can we do to reduce smoke pollution in the community can help to contribute to improved health overall.
In addition to chipping woody debris, the CVRD said residents can drop off yard waste free of charge at CVRD recycling centres.
“Residents may also want to try ‘leaving the leaves’ on the ground or in garden beds, as leaves provides a place for pollinators and other beneficial garden bugs to overwinter in,” the CVRD said.
“For those few residents unable to avoid burning, it’s critical to check the BC Venting Index, a scientific measure of atmospheric turbulence and winds, prior to lighting up. When the venting index is rated as ‘poor’ or ‘fair,’ it indicates stagnant atmospheric conditions and smoke from backyard burns and wood stoves will not disperse, but remain close to the ground, negatively impacting the health of the people that live there.”
Residents should be aware that the venting index is rarely rated ‘Good’ in the fall and winter, so it’s best to make alternative plans to burning wood debris during these times.
Under the CVRD’s Smoke Control Regulation Bylaw:
• Burning in the CVRD’s nine electoral areas, excluding areas F (Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls) and I (Youbou/Meade Creek), is only permitted from Oct. 15 to Nov. 15, and March 15 to April 15.
• Only untreated natural wood prunings and branches can be burned. Leaves and green debris are not permitted as it creates too much smoke.
• Burn piles may not be larger than two metres square and must be located at least 10 metres from all property lines.
• Burning can only occur between 7 a.m. and sunset of the same day.
The City of Duncan, Town of Ladysmith and Town of Lake Cowichan do not permit open burning at any time of year, and the Municipality of North Cowichan has its own burning restrictions.
To learn more, visit www.cvrd.bc.ca/cleartheair.
To report an illegal burn, contact CVRD bylaw enforcement at email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 250-746-2655.