With winter on the Alberni Valley’s doorstep, so are the inversions that bring poor air quality with them.
But while there’s little that can be done about the climate of the Valley, the air quality council (AQC) is hoping to limit human contributions to the situation.
“We get these inversions in the winter where the warm air is above and the cold air is below,” said Port Alberni fire Chief Tim Pley, who sits on the AQC.
“So that smoke just stays here and washes around and makes us all sick.”
While some of the poor air quality around town this time of year can be attributed to the slash burning in the mountains around town, said AQC member Sarah Thomas, the air quality council is hoping to do something about the emission sources they can control.
They’re hosting the Burn It Smart workshop at the Port Alberni Fire Department on Nov. 21 to teach residents all about the importance of clean, dry wood for woodstoves.
“The workshop is part of the grant for the woodstove exchange program,” said Pley.
“The idea is to help get the message out. If people want to bring their firewood in from home we’ll test the moisture in it and tell them whether it’s safe and advisable to burn.”
Wood that has too much moisture in it requires much more energy to burn.
“It doesn’t burn hot enough so a lot of your energy is used up just evaporating the water and thus it pollutes more, produces more smoke,” he said.
The recommended amount of moisture in firewood is no more than 15-20 per cent, added Thomas.
Equally important as dry firewood is a high-efficiency EPA-certified woodstove, Pley added.
“They re-burn the smoke,” he said.
“Smoke is fuel so if that smoke just goes up the chimney you lose a good percentage of fuel and potential heat and you’re polluting.”
An EPA-certified woodstove, Pley said, traps the smoke.
“By burning a more efficient stove it re-burns the smoke, gets a ton more heat out of your wood. That gets you a lot more value out of your wood and the emissions are way lower.”
With more and more high-efficiency, Pley said air quality in the Alberni Valley has improved.
“It has a significant impact…in a subjective perspective, people think it’s better than it was.”
The workshop isn’t all science thanks to some donated firewood, added Pley.
“There’s going to be a wood stacking contest too.”
The workshop takes place at the Port Alberni fire hall from 2-4 p.m on Saturday, Nov. 21.