Prince George Air Improvement Roundtable
The Air Quality Challenge in Prince George
Prince George faces serious, longstanding air quality problems. These are linked primarily to topography, emissions from transportation, industry, road dust, and burning of wood for home heating and recreational use. Air quality improvements over the past 20 years are encouraging, and work is underway to further reduce harmful emissions and protect the health of residents. That’s where PGAIR comes in.
“Acceptable air quality is everyone’s right. Protecting air quality is everyone’s responsibility.”
This is the philosophy behind the Prince George Air Improvement Roundtable, a multi-stakeholder non-profit society committed to research, monitoring, recommendations and implementation of air quality improvements and to public awareness and education in the Prince George airshed, with the goal of improving the air quality in the community.
PGAIR is a multi-stakeholder collaboration. It benefits from the time and expertise of those in business, industry, community groups, government, UNBC and Northern Health and from members of the public. Funding is from the City of Prince George, Regional District of Fraser Fort George, BC Ministry of Environment, BC Lung Association, and all permitted emitters in the airshed, including CN Rail, Husky Energy, Lafarge, Carrier Lumber and Canfor Pulp Limited. FBC’s Upper Fraser regional office manages the programs of PGAIR.
PGAIR Phase III Implementation Plan
In November, 2011 PGAIR completed a Phase III Implementation Plan for the Prince George airshed, setting out its reduction targets for particulate matter (PM2.5) in 2013 and 2016, along with seven key strategies to achieve the targets from 2011-2016 and beyond. The strategies focus on:
The Phase III plan, including details on the strategies and potential actions, is available on the PGAIR website: Prince George Air Improvement Roundtable Phase III Implementation Plan.
PGAir takes the lead on some strategies in the Plan. Other strategies are led by public and private sector leaders who can make decisions and take action to improve air quality in their own scope of influence or authority. The plan offers workable opportunities for the participation of industry, business and individuals across the region.
Positive Trend on Fine Particulates
In September, the BC Ministry of Environment released a report showing that levels of fine particulate matter — tiny particles in the air posing a risk to human health — have steadily declined in the Prince George airshed since the 1990s.
The key to improvement has been more effective management at the source, in particular, the phase-out of all beehive burners, increased removal of fine particulate matter from multiple industrial partners, decreased open burning, use of coarser traction material on streets in winter and improved street cleaning practices.
For details see the report Ambient Levels of Particulate Matter in Prince George: A Summary of Trends.
Acrolein Flagged in VOCs Report
A 2013 report on volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in Prince George found that concentrations of VOCs in 2011-2012 air samples were not high enough to create adverse health effects for the general population.
The compound acrolein, however, may have contributed to odour and discomfort experienced by residents in the east Prince George neighbourhood where the sampling took place. Acrolein is a tissue irritant with an intense, acrid odour. It is produced by vehicles (particularly diesel), aircraft, oil and gas industries, pulp and paper mills, residential woodburning, forest fires, cigarette smoke and heated cooking oil.
There is no provincial limit for acrolein, but five of the 12 air samples exceeded California’s guidelines for acute, intermittent one-hour exposure, and this is a relevant measure in air quality management. Further sampling was recommended to assess acrolein in the airshed over time.
An important caution from PGAIR is that little is known about the potential combined effects of VOCs, a reason for ongoing vigilance.
Read the report on the Ministry website.
Air Quality Health Index
The Air Quality Health Index is a health protection tool that offers ratings for communities across Canada on current risks to human health from air quality. The Index takes into account three common air pollutants: ground level ozone, fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide.
The Index is an important tool for people sensitive to air pollution who may need to protect themselves from exposure to pollutants at certain levels. This includes people with heart or breathing problems, young children, the elderly, or those who are frequently involved in strenuous outdoor activity. Check out the Air Quality Health Index for BC.