Air quality council chair Sarah Thomas prepares for the ‘What’s in the Air?’ air quality forum at the AV Multiplex on May 26.

Air quality council chair Sarah Thomas prepares for the ‘What’s in the Air?’ air quality forum at the AV Multiplex on May 26.

Alberni air quality in focus May 26

A 'What's in the Air?' air quality forum will be held on Thursday, May 26 for Port Alberni folks to find out what they're breathing in.

What are you breathing in as you take each breath in the Alberni Valley?

That’s just what the Port Alberni Air Quality Council is hoping that locals come and find out at the ‘What’s in the Air?’ air quality forum on Thursday, May 26 from 6-8 p.m. at the Alberni Valley Multiplex.

“The Port Alberni Air Quality Council, in conjunction with the BC Lung Association, is organizing an air quality and health forum to engage the community in deeper conversation about air quality issues and the implication on health of the residents in the Valley.” said air quality council chair Sarah Thomas.The event will feature guest speakers.

“We have Sarah Henderson from the Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Michael Brauer from the UBC Population and Public Health [faculty], VIHA Medical Health Officer Dr. Paul Hasselback and  Ministry of Environment meteorologist Earle Plain who will be speaking about air quality data and a recent report that the MoE is putting out about statistics for the Alberni Valley.”

There will also be an opportunity to talk to Port Alberni-based groups and companies with an impact on air quality,

“Cycle Alberni will be talking about active transportation initiatives, Catalyst Paper with information on their operations and the City of Port Alberni with information on bylaws pertaining to wood stoves and backyard burning,” said Thomas.

Attendees will learn about what sources of air pollution they directly affect in their day to day lives.

“Residential wood smoke is a fairly significant proportion in the Alberni Valley,” said Thomas.

“Vehicle  pollution is another and every single resident has an impact on that.”

Then there are the larger sources like slash burning, industrial sources and agricultural emissions.

The most important thing, Thomas said, is to get a good overall view of what contributes to the Valley’s often-times poor air quality.

“The big thing is to look at each of the components,” she said, adding that due  to the region’s geographical makeup, pollutants tend to have a bigger effect here than they would elsewhere.

“Because of the geography and the mountains, the way that the inversions come—particularly in the winter where the cold air gets trapped in the Valley—means that the wood smoke doesn’t have an opportunity to vent out and so gets trapped.”

Thomas is looking to encourage people to stack clean, dry wood in preparation for winter with a photo contest.

“When people do burn wood, and particularly for people who do have wood stoves as their primary source of heat, it’s important to burn dry wood… so now is the time to be collecting wood,” she said. Residents can take a photo of their creatively but stably stacked wood and submit it to airqualitycouncil@gmail.com to win prizes.

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