New monitoring equipment indicates that Port Alberni is enjoying some of the best air quality it’s had in years, Air Quality Council official Bernadette Wyton said.
This despite an air quality advisory that was issued earlier this week when a temperature inversion settled over the city.
According to Wyton, the new equipment atop Alberni Elementary School interfaces with a provincial weather database allowing for more comprehensive data to be generated.
The equipment measures fine particulate matter in the air. In particular, it measures Fine Particulate 2.5, which at levels over 25 micrograms trips an air quality advisory.
On Monday an air quality advisory was issued for the Valley after fine particulate measured 26 micrograms.
The cause of the advisory was two-fold, Wyton said. One, a thick, stagnant air mass is hovering over Vancouver Island trapping any smoke that goes up. And two, a recent land clearing burn contributed to the spike, she said.
Despite the event, recent measurements show that Port Alberni’s air quality has been good, she added. In 2006, the Particulate Matter 2.5 average measurement prorated over the year was 12. In 2012, the average measurement for one year was 6.0. “Our air quality is lower or better than in Duncan or Courtenay.”
The improvement can be contributed to a few things, Wyton said. Firstly, people are more aware of clean air and airshed issues, she said. Also, climate patterns in 2012 were wet, and rain serves to rinse particulates out of the air. A $15,000 woodstove exchange program was underwritten by the province last year in an effort to encourage up to 50 Alberni residents to replace their old stoves with cleaner burning models.
Combined with exchange programs in previous years there have been 220 old stoves swapped so far. The number equates to 15 tonnes of pollution, Wyton said. The bylaw expires after 2017 and old stoves won’t be certified afterward, Wyton said.
As incentive, the city has agreed to waive the $100 wood stove inspection fee for the 50 people who have applied for the program.