Local residents have had concerns for years about the dust storms that can come off Kinbasket Reservoir when the water levels are low, and although many people might have seen haze over the valley like there was this Saturday May 11, many may not have actually seen the dust being blown off the dry mud-flats before. Thanks to Jean Osadchuck for the tip about the great place to get pictures of the phenomenon.
Wind blowing from the Southeast straight up Canoe River seemed to be dust free, but the currents blowing off the dry flats and west along the base of Canoe Mountain are obvious.
Airborne silica dust is listed as a Hazardous Material by WorkSafe BC, since it can cause silicosis (a disease where fine particles of silica deposited in the lungs cause thickening and scarring of the lung tissue) and has been linked to lung cancer. Measurements taken at the Courthouse since late 2008 have shown that the predominant winds in Valemount are from the SSE and SE (the direction of Kinbasket). Recent data from the Ministry of Environment however shows that air quality objectives for levels of particulate matter (PM) are far more often exceeded in the months from October through March (presumably from wood burning) than from April through July.
By: Korie Marshall