As happens anytime the subjects of backyard burning and woodstoves come up we’ve gotten lots of response from the public on the Municipality of North Cowichan’s proposals to bring in some fairly restrictive rules to try to clear the air.
And when we say clear the air, we mean that literally.
It’s no surprise that some woodstove owners are unhappy with the proposal, which would see them banned from using their appliance if they have access to another form of heating when the air quality is bad.
Many people got woodstoves to try to cut down on their Hydro bills. Under the proposed regulations, we suspect there would be quite a few times over the course of a winter when owners would not be able to use their woodstoves.
Because yes, the air quality is that bad.
Which is the whole point.
We hope council has the guts to stay the course here. These measures will be unpopular with some. But this is about the health of the community as a whole, and not just those within North Cowichan’s borders.
Smoke respects none of the borders we’ve arbitrarily drawn on maps.
It hangs, a miasma in the air, over the entire Cowichan Valley, trapped by our geography.
We know that hospital admissions for children with respiratory diseases were on average 70 per cent higher in the Valley than the rest of B.C. between 1998 and 2012.
And yet, some people continue to think they should have the absolute right to burn anything they want, anywhere, at any time.
They cannot be allowed to carry the day. A ban on backyard burning is long overdue. Ladysmith, the Town of Lake Cowichan and the City of Duncan long ago implemented such a ban.
Yard and garden waste if free to take to Bings Creek. There’s also the option of composting it, particularly if you have a larger piece of property.
Much of the other debris you may have lying around from household projects you shouldn’t be burning anyway even under existing bylaws, as it can create toxic fumes.
But people still burn it anyway. Which is a big part of the problem. People do not follow the rules. They do not make sure their burn piles are dry and free of toxic detritus. They do not make sure the air index indicates it’s OK to burn.
Thus there are big piles of wet, smoky leaves choking neighbours and harming anyone with a respiratory issue.
Change, in this case, is overdue.