Smoke plan to address the particulars of air quality

  • May. 17, 2011 8:00 a.m.

A new pilot study planned to start near the end of May aims to clear the air a bit here in the Bulkley Valley.

The smoke management plan will apply to this fall’s burning season, Ben Weinstein, Air Quality Meteorologist, Skeena Region said, complying with the Ministry of Environment’s to-be-released new open burning regulations.

What the pilot has done was look at the Bulkley timber supply area, spanning from Moricetown to the Telkwa Valley and up to Babine Lake, and divide it into three sections: the primary area, the secondary area, and the tertiary area, based on human population.

What the plan is testing out to see is that, for those operators in a lower-population area, burning rules such as if, when and for how long one can burn for could be less stringent than the ones closer to population centres, such as Smithers or Telkwa.

“Those who sign onto the plan commit to using the best management practices and all available tools that they have in order to reduce the amount of smoke generated in a burn,” Weinstein said.

Reducing the amount of smoke in rural areas is important, Weinstein said, because the particles within it are generally not healthy for people to breathe in for a consistent amount of time.

This plan is essentially dealing with quality of life issues for those living here, Weinstein said.

“Exposure of particles has been shown to shorten your life and lead to bad health outcomes, so what we’re really trying to do is promote as much as we can the practices that will enable people who burn to burn better, burn more effective piles … that will hopefully lead to better air quality,” Weinstein said.

Next year they’ll be evaluating how the population based burning regulations worked for reducing particulates in the air, deciding what worked, what didn’t, and what they’d like to see changed.

It’s nice that with the new regulations that areas can be localized to what works in each region, Weinstein said. Other districts throughout B.C. could choose to do the same as they have here in the Bulkley. At that time it would be large-scale companies that would initiate changes to their region in a way that makes sense there, Weinstein said, and not the Ministry of Environment.