KAMLOOPS AIR 2014 - A YEAR IN REVIEW
Jan. 20, 2015
Our studies have shown that fine particulates in Kamloops air have exceeded the B.C. Planning Goal for years and 2014 continued a concerning trend. 2014 exceeded 9 ug/m3 as an annual average for the first time since 2003 and this was the third highest annual average in 17 years of measurements. Air quality is already compromised in Kamloops. City and provincial politicians and bureaucrats need to address how to reduce the negative impact of the large sources of emissions of PM2.5 that are affecting the city, namely: prescribed burning of wood, forest fires, mines, and mills. Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment Society calls for more monitors, an increase in BC Ministry of the Environment staff to maintain the monitors, and more cohesion between involved Ministries to protect health and quality of life in Kamloops.
Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment Society has brought attention to the air quality in Kamloops. The Mayor's Kamloops Airshed Management Committee posted minutes to their website of meetings up to March 2012, and discussions seemed to conclude that the Kamloops Airshed was "under" government limits and "good". However, these conclusions were based on using measurements of particulate matter from an instrument that was biased low. In June 2014, the Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment Society produced a fact sheet entitled Facts about the Proposed KGHM/Ajax Open-Pit Mine. It showed the annual average PM2.5 in Kamloops for the years 2011, 2012, and 2013. In 2013 the annual average PM2.5 value for Kamloops was 8.9 ug/m3, which was well above the BC Ambient Air Quality Objective of 8. We received criticism of this fact sheet prompting the preparation of three separate research papers sequentially substantiating and adding to our conclusions - an overview of Kamloops air in 2014 is the focus of this New Year's press release.
July 10, 2014: the statistical analysis of the 2011-2013 data was upheld; at the 95% confidence level, the annual mean PM2.5 value for 2013 was greater than the values for 2012 and for 2011. [Tsigaris & Schemenauer 2014a. Statistical Study of PM2.5 Measured at the Kamloops Federal Building for Years 2011, 2012 and 2013]
July 25, 2014: the data from the older TEOM monitors were statistically analyzed and it was apparent that data from these instruments, for the period 1998 - 2010, were severely underestimating PM2.5. An adjustment methodology was developed to compare and merge data, and the conclusion was that average concentrations of fine particulate matter had for many years exceeded the standard set by the Province of BC for the protection of the population. [Tsigaris & Schemenauer 2014b. Reconstructing the Historic Database of Annual PM2.5 Values for Kamloops, B.C. by Calculating the Offset between TEOM and BAM Measurements]
Through 2014 we watched the hourly, daily and rolling average from the monitor in downtown Kamloops. We were concerned with July and August when we were impacted by forest fire smoke - despite no forest fire in or near Kamloops. Our July air was the worst since recordings began. November prompted a major alert for us. Members who were returning from trips remarked on the low-level air in the region around Kamloops looking very polluted. In the past, authorities have attributed bad winter air to people's use of wood stoves and fireplaces. This past November air degraded suddenly and the month was not that cold. So why was the air so bad?
Jan 13, 2015: we produced a new statistical report on the incredible month of November 2014, which had the third highest average PM2.5 value of all the Novembers since records began in 1998. It would seem that slash burning without adequate meteorological conditions to vent the smoke produced the unhealthy air of November throughout the Interior. Slash burning is not limited to just November, it can occur anytime after the forest fire season and typically might go from October into April. Local permits are required from the Kamloops Fire Centre and the permit holders are asked to burn when the ventilation index is good. How well this works in practice is not known but, clearly, it did not achieve its goal in 2014 as is evidenced by the high levels of PM2.5 measured throughout the Southern Interior during November. [Tsigaris & Schemenauer 2015a. The Influence of Prescribed Burning of Wood in the Kamloops Fire Centre on the PM2.5 Values in Kamloops in the Month of November]. Indeed, this study showed November on the average had the worst air quality of any month of the year, despite December and January being considerably colder.
This third research paper supported by our group really builds upon prior reviews to conclude that our precious air, which we thought was "good", needs stewardship or it will continue to degrade. We have watched the one monitor often go "down" for maintenance or repairs. Sometimes these downtimes are in the middle of a bad run of air quality - which influences the annual average. We have calculated the PM2.5 annual average for 2014 to be 9.0 ug/m3 if days with missing data are deleted, and 9.3 ug/m3 if estimates are used to account for the missing data.
There is recent news from the City of Kamloops that the old Weyerhaeuser site may be up for industrial redevelopment. 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. Similarly, the city and province must seriously address the impact of emissions of PM2.5 from the proposed KGHM/Ajax mine into an airshed that has for many years exceeded the BC Ambient Air Quality Objective of 8 ug/m3.
Kamloops Physicians for a Healthy Environment Society has been advocating for funding for more monitors, the manpower to maintain them, a system to report air quality accurately, and to limit sources of emissions. The management of this airshed really needs all levels of government to be involved and, as targets are set, the infrastructure to do the job must be funded and operationalized. It does no good to set a goal, then not measure, and not enforce.