Teck continues pursuit of fugitive dust

In response to a May windstorm, Teck has installed a second dust monitor that will continuously read the level of dust in the air.

Fugitive dust is a relatively new moniker given to an historical problem in Trail.

But what is it really, and why should residents care?

Fugitive dust is defined as any solid particulate matter that becomes airborne, through an emission other than a stack or chimney.

When inhaled, the fine particles can accumulate in the lungs, causing various respiratory problems including persistent coughing and wheezing.

“Wind movement and operation of the plants blow fugitive dust into the atmosphere,”said Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs, chair of the Trail Health and Environment Committee (THEC)

“The emissions affect the community not just environmentally but especially in terms of health.”

In response to a significant windstorm on May 5 which blew a mass quantity of fugitive dust into Rivervale and Birchbank, in early July Teck Trail Operations installed a second monitor at its north entrance that will continuously reads the level of dust in the air.

“A massive windstorm went through our town and the warm air sent dust from the Trail operation toward Birchbank,” said Bogs.

By the time the dust reached that area it had dissipated, rendering an inaccurate picture of the level of  lead and heavy metals that may have contaminated the area.

“By the time the dust reached the distance at Birchbank it was diluted and didn’t really show in the readings,” explained Bogs.

The new monitor is the same distance from the centre of Teck operations as the monitor in East Trail’s Butler Park, which has been a useful tool for troubleshooting dust levels for years.

“It  shows minute by minute continuous readings so the next time another storm blows through the exact concentration of fugitive dust should be indicated,” he said.

Dust blown into the atmosphere during an event such as a windstorm is referred to as an excursion.

“Excursions are short duration abnormal events,” said Carol Vanelli Worosz, Teck’s communications manager.

“Fugitive emissions are not necessarily constant and windblown dust is the type of event Teck wants to control,” she added.

Bridget Kivell, member of the Tadanac residents’ association said that the neighbourhood appreciates the many projects Teck is undertaking, such as planting bushes and trees to keep the dust level minimal.

“I haven’t noticed a big difference yet,” she said.

“But they are very conscientious. If there is a complaint about dust on the road, with one phone call they are quick to get here and water it down.”

At a Trail and Health Environment Committee (THEC) meeting in June, Teck’s five-year plan to reduce fugitive dust emissions, which primarily contain lead and arsenic, was presented to members of neighbouring municipalities, interior health authorities and community representatives.

“Since the mid 1990s we have reduced our metal emissions to air by 95 per cent,” said Worosz.

“Our current focus is on reducing fugitive dust from a variety of sources such as materials storage, transportation and buildings.”

Teck plans to reduce fugitive dust emissions include installation of  additional truck wheel washing stations, and construction of  designated buildings that operate under negative pressure for mixing and storage of materials.

“This will make significant improvement to fugitive dust that currently affects our community,” said Bogs.