A shift in the wind blows smoke from a slash pile burn over Smithers in September 2016. Chris Gareau photo

Smithers seeks tougher burn regulations

Smithers mayor and council want stricter rules on slash pile burning and use wood for pellets.

The Town of Smithers is continuing to press its case for stricter slash burning regulations in meetings this week with provincial cabinet ministers at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention in Whistler.

In doing so it’s hoping for a double win — protecting local air quality by reducing burning and providing a supply source for the Pinnacle Pellet plant now under construction here, says Smithers mayor Taylor Bachrach.

“This is something we’ve been pursuing for a long time,” said Bachrach of the call for more stringent open burning regulations.

“We think there could be alternatives for the waste left over from logging other than burning — something that could add value to the resource,” said Bachrach. “The more waste can be used as a value added resource, the better.”

He noted there were 30,000 piles of slash burned in the region last year, creating smoke that affected the air quality in Smithers and area.

Bachrach said the town council was taken aback when the previous provincial government did propose a change that would have prevented slash burning within 20 kilometres of a municipality.

“But as you know, smoke travels further than 20 kilometres,” he said.

And that was reinforced this summer when the large number of wildfires in the province resulted in air quality advisories in many areas.

Bachrach did note that the geographic location of Smithers akin to being in a bowl among the mountains lends itself to inversion layers in the winter where smoke is trapped by upper atmospheric layers.

As it is, efforts at curtailing emissions from wood stoves during the winter have included buy-back programs so residents can replace older models with cleaner-burning newer ones.

The slash burning issue will be discussed with provincial environment minister George Heyman and Doug Donaldson who is not only the provincial cabinet minister responsible for forests and natural resources but who is also the MLA for the Stikine riding which includes Smithers.

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