Working group hopes to clear the air

Air quality concerns prompt action from Trail Health and Environment Committee

Residents in Trail have a new watchdog group ready to track down what is up in the air.

The city averages six calls each month from people upset about smoke billowing out of the stacks, or about a strange “taste” and odour in the air.

In response to those concerns, the Air Quality technical working group was formed at the Trail Health and Environment committee (THEC) meeting last week.

“We’ve had quite a few complaints about the stacks, fugitive dust and other conditions this year,” said Mayor Dieter Bogs, THEC chair. “The issues are both health and aesthetic related. This group came about to gain better understanding of air quality issues for the community as a whole.”

The working group was formed, instead of a committee, to allow for open discussion on issues that may be sensitive and to allow ad hoc members to join the meetings without constraint.

West Trail resident Ron Joseph, chair of the group, said that he became concerned at the apparently worsening smoke conditions from Teck.

“The group hopes to aid the process of reducing the overall emissions from the plant in Trail,” he explained. “It is my hope that the group will be able to spur on much needed visual improvements and the air quality.”

The focus is not to take action, rather to assimilate data and develop an inventory to compile simple-to-understand graphics describing the points of emission.

In addition, group members plan to prioritize the emission plumes in terms of any possible remediation, said Joseph.

“Teck is in the process of making environmental improvements in its Trail operations but most of these are spurred on by governmental guidelines,” he said. “Not all these improve the aesthetic values of a mountain community situated on a major river.”

The working group includes Coun. Gord DeRosa, Mark Tinholt from Teck Trail Operations and Brad McCandlish, senior environmental officer with the Ministry of Environment.

“The working group will focus directly on air quality in the valley and report back to the THEC,” said Tinholt, adding, “they will provide a forum for members to explore, investigate and discuss air quality issues in detail.”

At the committee meeting in June, Teck presented a five-year plan to reduce fugitive dust emissions, which primarily contain lead and arsenic and since the mid 1990s, the company has reduced metal emissions to air by 95 per cent, according to Carol Vanelli-Worosz, communications manager.

“People become more sensitive about issues as the air gets better and better,” said Bogs. “Once we identify in detail what those issues are, we can look to Teck for possible solutions and cost.”

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