The Kamloops This Week Headline From June 24, 2014 Was Misleading

June 25, 2014

Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment Society (KPHES) was pleased to see that our fact sheet on air quality in Kamloops is getting widespread attention in the community. We welcome debate on the issue and would like to address some points raised in the piece by Andrea Klassen on 23 June, in particular, the statement that we may have misrepresented the data regarding airborne particulates.

We stated in our brochure that the annual average fine particulate concentration in Kamloops was at 8 micrograms per cubic meter in 2012 and 8.9 in 2013. This is correct. The objective in British Columbia is for values to be below 8. We chose to focus on the BC guidelines as they are most relevant in this instance.

Indeed the older TEOM instruments produced lower readings for PM2.5 than the newer BAM instruments. It is because of this change in instruments that we only reported annual average values for 2011, 2012 and 2013. These are years for which the measurements were made at the same location in Kamloops with the same instrument (FEM/BAM). The discussion in the piece about problems with the older instrument is irrelevant to the data we presented in the KPHES brochure. Likewise, wood smoke has nothing to do with comparing annual averages using the same instrument.

With all due respect to Mr. Adams of the BC Ministry of the Environment, who has given great service to the community for many years, if BC MOE has many years of data comparing the TEOM and BAM instruments in this city, we would ask that he make the data available to KPHES so we could examine the data from 2010 and earlier with confidence. To date we have not included these years in our analysis, not in an effort to be misleading, but in an effort to be consistent and accurate.

It's difficult to see how KPHES could be criticized for leaving out 2010 data, supposedly, according to Mr. Adams, because the value was high due to fires, when at the same time he said we shouldn't mix data from different instruments, which would have been the case if we had included 2010 data. In 2010 both the TEOM and BAM instruments were in use. We did not include the year because of this. As far as we are aware, there are no public data for the complete year of 2010 using the BAM instrument.

There are certainly errors and uncertainties in any data set. Due to space limitations, and the need to use layman's terms in a brochure designed for public consumption, we were unable to discuss the limitations in the data, just as the BC Ministry of the Environment does not show error bars on its public website. According to Environment Canada, an individual measurement of PM2.5 should have an accuracy of 20% or better. The annual mean values, which we reported, will have much smaller errors. Our statistical analysis, by two TRU professors, shows that the PM2.5 in 2013 was significantly higher, at the 95% confidence level, than that in 2012 and than that in 2011. Their analysis will be posted on our website.

Dr. Biagtan of the B.C. Lung Association is correct to state that "There is no safe level for any of the pollutants...", which is why KPHES says in the brochure that we should be working to clean our air, not allow another major source of airborne particulates to be built on the edge of the city.

Our point with respect to Highland Valley Copper and New Gold/New Afton mines being the second and third largest emitters of fine particulate matter in Canada in 2012 is correct. It is on the public record in Environment Canada's National Pollutant Release Inventory.

We did not say that particulates from HVC make it to Kamloops in high concentrations. There is no network of monitoring stations downwind of HVC to allow us (or the MOE to our knowledge) to determine this. What we did present was the argument that if KGHM/Ajax goes ahead its emission of fine particulates, when added to those of New Gold/New Afton, would be likely to put a combined source on the edge of the city that would be comparable to the size of HVC, the second highest in Canada out of 3893 reporting industries. KPHES would be pleased to receive from Mr. Adams the New Gold PM2.5 data to examine. We are not aware that they are public at this time.

The KPHES website ( will present much more information on the analysis of the air in our city as we are able to access information and analyze it. We invite you to examine what is on our website and send us your comments and questions.

Dr. Robert Schemenauer
Atmospheric Physicist, Senior Scientist Environment Canada (retired)
on behalf of
Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment Society