Original article can be found at the Prince George Citizen website.
|Written by Gordon Hoekstra
Monday, 03 August 2009
A Prince George air quality advocacy group and the Millar Addition
neighbourhood are partnering with a California-based organization to
test the sometimes smelly air in Prince George.
The two Prince
George groups with about 1,200 members have raised money to bring
Global Community Monitor -- which helps with this kind of testing
throughout the world -- to the city where they will provide training
and help determine what the testing program will entail.
particulates are the key air pollutants that provincial regulators have
focused on in Prince George, the Millar Addition Citizens Coalition and
the People's Action Committee for Healthy Air want to know what's
behind the smell they believe could be more than a nuisance.
Addition Citizen Coalition spokesman Brad Gagnon said he woke at 5 a.m.
in the morning recently from the stench from either the Canfor pulp
mills or Husky Refinery. (Canada's National Pollution Release Inventory
shows that city's pulp mills and oil refinery are the major sources of
Gagnon ended up with a headache that lasted the whole morning. "We shouldn't have to live with that," he said.
Millar Addition is a downtown neighbourhood located just north and west
of Fort George Park, situated within kilometres of an industrial site
that includes pulp mills, chemical plants and an oil refinery.
odour study was recently undertaken under the direction of the Prince
George Air Improvement Roundtable, a group that includes
representatives from the province, city, industry, public, Northern
Health and UNBC. However, some sample bags burst or were delivered past
the stipulated 30-hour time limit to a lab. No conclusions have been
drawn from the limited data.
Gagnon says the goal -- once it is
determined exactly what's behind the stench -- is to improve air
quality in Prince George. "Knowledge is power," he said.
If it's known what is behind the smell, we can approach industry, stressing the need for intelligent upgrades, said Gagnon.
volunteers will be trained to capture air samples, which will then be
sent via courier to a lab in California, Columbia Analytical Services
Inc., that has expertise in testing air samples.
That will require more fundraising, which both Prince George groups plan to launch this September.
The People's Action Committee for Healthy Air, created three years ago,
has been pushing for more action by industry to reduce air pollution
emissions. "We have been told these odours are just a nuisance and
nothing else, but when people are feeling sick as a result of these
odours, we believe there may be more to it and we want to find out
exactly what's in them," said PACHA president Dave Fuller.
Global Community Monitor, based in El Cerrito, Calif., is a non-profit
group which helps communities gather information to spur the clean-up
of their environments. The group uses a system called the "bucket
brigade," where the community's themselves do the air sampling. It's
called the bucket brigade in part because samples are collected with
five-gallon plastic buckets, plastic liners, and sealed lids with a
small air pump to create a vacuum.
The advocacy group has done work extensively throughout the U.S., and in others parts of the world, as well as Canada recently.
group helped set up a bucket brigade in the Aamjiwnaang First Nation in
Sarnia, Ont., where the testing in 2008 delivered results that found
hazardous levels of sulfur compounds. The Aamjiwnaang First Nation is
in an area of heavy industrialization.
Global Community Monitor
program director Ruth Breech said the bucket brigades help empower
communities or neighbourhoods who then have their own data to take to
regulators and industry. The communities also are able to determine
where they want to do the testing and when, catching peak episodes and
monitoring near industry, aspects not always caught by regulators which
tend to focus on averages, she said.
At the least, collecting neighbourhood data usually forces regulators to undertake more robust monitoring, said Breech.
It levels the playing field and changes the conversation, she observed, adding it
can lead to an in-depth discussion on reduction and exposure.
bucket brigade monitoring system in tiny Addyston, Ohio, helped push
the state in 2005 to order a plastics plant to reduce emissions and