‘Unprecedented degradation’ of Fraser Valley air led to record number of warnings

Forty air quality advisories issued in last two years more than number seen in 10 years prior

The Fraser Valley’s air has never been dirtier.

The region has been subject to an “unprecedented degradation of air quality” in 2018, according to a new report from the staff of the Fraser Valley Regional District. So far, 21 air quality advisories have been issued this year, with more possibly to come, the report says. That’s more than the 19 advisories issued in 2017, which at the time, was by far the most ever recorded in a single year.

In 24 months, 40 air quality advisories had been issued.

Prior to 2017, the region had never before seen more than 10 advisories in a single year; in the two decades between 1996 and 2016, a total of 65 advisories had been issued – an average of fewer than four days each year.

RELATED: A look at B.C. wildfire smoke from space

Story continues below

Air quality advisories
Infogram

Smoke from wildfires is the most obvious culprit, and the staff notes that trends suggest wildfire seasons are becoming longer and more extreme.

But the report also notes that many of the advisories were attributable to local factors pushing ozone levels beyond the threshold that triggers a health warning. In late July, for instance, particulate matter counts were low, but hot weather, intense sunshine and a prolonged dry spell caused ozone levels to spike.

Poor air brings with it an array of health risks – and not only relating to the body’s respiratory system, Coun. Patricia Ross, who is vice-chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District board, noted. Studies have found breathing poor air has a negative effect on the brain, the heart and the prevalence of diabetes.

“We really do have one of the most challenged airsheds in the world,” Ross said.

A confluence of factors make the Fraser Valley particularly susceptible to factors that pollute the skies.

Prevailing winds blowing air from Metro Vancouver and Northern Washington into the funnel-shaped Fraser Valley frequently leaves residents breathing contaminants that originate to the west and south.

Ross cited a study that found more than half of the ground-level pollution in the Fraser Valley originated in Metro Vancouver, to the west. Another quarter came from the United States.

That means that local planning processes and initiatives can only have a limited effect on the region’s air.

“It’s certainly under-appreciated by those beyond our borders sometimes,” said Ross, who was a vocal opponent of the failed SE2 power plant in Washington State and proposals to burn garbage in Metro Vancouver. Ross, who also opposed the expansion to the Kinder Morgan pipeline, also cited the effects of marine pollution.

“It seems like we’ve constantly got to remind people beyond our borders: ‘Hey, you’re sending [your pollution] this way.’”

Ross said the report also shows the importance of improving the region’s transportation system, citing pollution caused by cars stuck in traffic, saying action is needed to widen the highway and/or improve transit options.

RELATED: 2017 wildfire smoke took toll on Lower Mainland air quality: report

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chilliwack baby is the pancake poster child for provincewide fundraiser

Face of one-year-old patient Sauyer Bell is who IHOP chose for its BC Children’s Hospital fundraiser

Residential Tenancy Branch won’t allow B.C. landlord to evict tenant even though he’s in jail

Landlord baffled at arbitrator decision based on notice of hearing not being served properly

From the Chilliwack Progress Archives: Central public school principal paints a bleak picture

In 1925, the principal of a Chilliwack school had strong words for a class of Grade 8 students

Fraser Valley couple wins $500K after finding scratch-and-win while moving

  • Robert Walters and Lois Gueret of Agassiz win half a million from Scratch & Win ticket

Stolen truck recovered by RCMP after it was used to commit crimes

Older red Chevy S10 was linked to thefts last weekend from rural and industrial areas of Chilliwack

Rail disruptions expected to continue after new protest sites emerge

Nationwide rail and road blockades have been popping up for weeks

51 health professionals send letter to Trudeau, Horgan panning northern B.C. pipeline

They point to studies about the health and climate change risks from pipeline

Fake meat and a latte? Starbucks adds Beyond Meat in Canada

The Seattle roaster has talked about introducing plant-based patties in the U.S., but has yet to do so

Groundhogs got it wrong: spring isn’t coming soon, Weather Network says

The only part of B.C. to warm up early will be Victoria

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Toffoli scores OT winner as Canucks beat Habs 4-3

Demko makes 37 saves for Vancouver

Pink Shirt Day campaign urges Canadians to ‘Lift Each Other Up’

Annual anti-bullying effort returns Wednesday, Feb. 26

Private clinics would harm ‘ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000

Most Read