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Chilliwack mayor 'connects dots' between air quality and Metro's incinerator

Hot weather haze over the Fraser Valley leads Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz to
Hot weather haze over the Fraser Valley leads Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz to 'connect the dots' with Metro Vancouver's proposed incinerator.
— image credit: FVRD

Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz is making the connection between a recent air quality advisory in the Fraser Valley and Metro Vancouver’s proposed waste-to-energy incinerator.

“It’s not too hard to connect the dots,” Gaetz said in a Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) press release issued Tuesday. “More pollution equals more ground-level ozone. Metro wants to build another garbage incinerator. Why would they want to add more pollution and lower the air quality even further?”

Gaetz and the FVRD have strongly opposed Metro’s proposed incinerator, arguing that any increase in emissions to the fragile Fraser Valley airshed is too much.

The air quality advisory comes along with a heat wave in the region. The high temperature of 34.5 C in Chilliwack on Sunday was an all-time record for the day, beating the 33.9 C on July 13, 1961, according to Roger Pannett, Environment Canada volunteer weather observer.

On Monday, a record high minimum was reached overnight and Metro continued an air quality advisory for eastern parts of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

Late Tuesday, Metro ended the advisory as air quality had improved due to temperatures cooling slightly.

“Reducing air emissions throughout the airshed continues to be important for good air quality as warm, sunny weather continues,” Metro’s message stated.

Gaetz responded that the air quality advisory is a direct example of how pollution affects human health.

“It would be ludicrous to consider building more facilities that will further harm our communities,” she said. “The Fraser Valley Regional District is very concerned for how the pollution from these facilities will further affect the elderly and vulnerable that can’t go outside due to low air quality.”

The FVRD says that in the 26 years the existing Burnaby incinerator has been in operation there have been no health studies on the impacts to surrounding communities.

“Studies show that health care costs from air pollution in British Columbia are already estimated at around $85 million per year,” Gaetz said. “We hope that Metro Vancouver will finally acknowledge the pressure they will be putting on all British Columbians if they build another incinerator.”

Metro Vancouver responded to Gaetz's comments arguing that more than 50 per cent of ozone forming emissions come from transportation sources compared to less than one per cent from waste-to-energy (WTE).

"Upgrades are underway at the existing WTE facility that will, by the end of 2014, reduce its NOx (a contributor to smog) contributions to less than half of current values," a statement said. "New WTE would produce even less NOx. Get facts about WTE and air quality here: metrovancouver.org/WTE."

Air quality maps for Chilliwack and the rest of the Fraser Valley are available at www.airmap.ca.

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