Smoke rises from a controlled burn near Kitimat's industrial area. (Photo Gerry Leibel)

Relief in sight from open burn pollution

New regulations should cut down on air pollution

Kitimat residents should be able to breathe easier once open burning smoke control regulations come into effect on September 15 this year, ahead of the fall burning season.

Announcing the beefed-up regulations on July 10, provincial Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman said changes to when and where open burning can take place would improve people’s health by reducing fine particulate matter pollution.

“The new rules will oversee the open burning of logging slash and other vegetative debris. These rules will replace an outdated, one-size-fits-all regulation for burning throughout the province, regardless of the location or reason for burning,” said Heyman.

He said the new regulations will also allow communities more flexibility to conduct controlled burning to reduce fire hazards that could make them vulnerable to larger wildfires, adding that the B.C. government would also be incentivizing the use of newer and cleaner technology in an effort to cut pollution.

New requirements to improve the protection of community air quality include more stringent rules in areas near communities, including shorter burn periods and a requirement to dry out debris, as well as allowing for larger setbacks from neighbours, schools and hospitals.

“Open burning is the largest source of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution in the province. It contributes to poor air quality in communities and has a wide range of health impacts,” added Heyman.

He said open burning contributes as much PM2.5 as transportation, wood heating and the wood-processing industry combined.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said poor air quality impacts heavily on people living with respiratory and underlying health issues.

“Given the difficult wildfire seasons our province has faced in recent years, initiatives like this to improve air quality are important, especially to seniors and children who are often the most at risk.”

Kitimat Terrace Clean Air Coalition’s Emily Toews said the regulations are a positive sign that the B.C. government is recognizing the need to protect the public from health impacts due to pollution.

MORE: Wildfire smoke is like a ‘chemical soup’

“The new rules regarding open burning in British Columbia will help to reduce smoke and particulate matter in our airshed by regulating how much burning can occur with respect to weather on the day of the burning, the distance from people and what materials are allowed to be burned,” said Toews.

“These rules should help prevent burning during low cloud cover days or during inversions in Kitimat, lessening the impact on human health in areas where citizens work and recreate.”

She said the coalition was hopeful that the B.C. government would also take necessary steps to help industry reduce sulphur dioxide (SO2) pollution in the Kitimat airshed.

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