Haze hanging over Duncan prompts air quality advisory

An air quality advisory and open burning restrictions issued by the provincial Ministry of Environment and Island Health last weekend are continuing into the week as a haze hangs in the air over the Cowichan Valley.

People with chronic medical conditions are being told to postpone strenuous exercise and stay indoors if they are within 15 kilometres of Duncan city hall.

"Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have diabetes, and lung or heart disease," the press release states.

Fine particulate concentrations averaged over 24 hours were 31 micrograms per cubic metres as of 8 a.m. Monday morning, exceeding the provincial objective of 25 micrograms.

The pollution is coming from wood smoke, commercial and industrial activities and motor and marine vehicles.

"There are a lot of different sources for fine particulates," said Earle Plain, air quality meteorologist with the Ministry of Environment. The problems come in the winter when everyone ramps up their usage in response to colder weather, whether its idling their cars longer or industry having to use more fuel for their processes.

"All those things add up," he said.

The Cowichan Valley wasn’t subject to air quality advisories until a few years ago, but Plain said that’s not necessarily because the pollution is getting worse, but because now there are monitoring stations to measure it.

"Wood smoke concentrations are expected to be higher during the evening, overnight and early morning hours and should improve during daylight hours," the press release said.

People who fall into the high risk groups, including infants and the elderly are being advised to avoid areas with wood smoke and stay indoors with windows and doors closed, and run an air cleaner. People can also take shelter in airconditioned buildings that have limited entry of outdoor air.

To try to reduce what’s in the air, the exemption to the Open Burning Smoke Regulation that allows for open burning of debris has been suspended, meaning no new fires can be started and no more material can be added to existing ones, under threat of fines.

Individuals are asked to do their part by avoiding the use of their fireplaces and woodstoves unless they are the home’s only source of heat. If they are the only source of heat, people are asked to use only CSA/EPA emissions approved wood-burning appliances and well cured wood.

People are also asked to avoid backyard burning and idling their vehicles.

The poor air quality is expected to continue until the weather changes.

For more information, see www.bcairquality.ca

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