Poor air quality blights Valemount’s winters / 2017 FILE PHOTO


By Andru McCracken

The Village of Valemount is taking action on the community’s air quality problem.

At their October 22 meeting, council approved a set of actions brought forward by the Clean Air Task Force that include developing a survey on residential heating practices in the Village of Valemount, drafting a Clean Air

Bylaw, budgeting for a wood stove exchange program and researching low interest loans for residents wishing to replace their stoves.

During the meeting council agreed to set aside $5000 per year for five years for the wood stove exchange program.

Councillor Hollie Blanchette explained why it was important to commit funds.

“If it becomes a budget item, it’s something we’re cognizant about and that we plan for,” said Blanchette. “We all agree that we need to do something so behind that there is going to have to be some dollars. That’s why the discussion went that way.”

Council requested that the Valemount Community Forest contribute as well.

Staff was also directed to research low interest loans for residents wishing to upgrade or replace their wood stoves.

“We’re just looking at different avenues,” explained Blanchette, who sits on the Clean Air Task Force. “We’re not saying we’ll put this into place for sure, we just want to find out what options everybody has,” she said.

When asked what a clean air bylaw might look like, Chief Administrative Officer Wayne Robinson said they would look at bylaws from other communities like Prince George.

“We’re not reinventing the wheel here,” said Robinson. “We can look at what other communities have done and what has worked.”

He said the draft bylaw would likely prohibit the installation of outdoor wood boilers, the installation of non-CSA approved stoves and the burning of garbage. He said it would look at dust abatement and anti-idling bylaws.

As for the woodstove exhange program, which is set to kick off in 2020, Robinson said residents might get up to $2000 per home to install a pellet stove, which could cover most of the costs.

“Last time I checked you could get a pellet stove for $1500 with piping for the exhaust,” he said.

Robinson said the village is also looking for ways to develop a seasoned wood program to ensure residents have access to high quality fuel.

“There’s no silver bullet,” said Robinson. “It takes time.”

Valemount’s air quality has been flagged as the worst in the province and has received national attention for exceeding Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards. Poor air quality is documented at the Valemount Fire Hall where there is a continuous air quality monitor operated by the Province of BC’s Ministry of the Environment. Locals have wondered if the monitor is representative of the smoke problem across the community. That question was answered when a researcher drove a mobile air quality monitor throughout the village over the course of a week, creating a map of the level of pollution for comparison. Pollution levels vary somewhat through town, but the fire hall air quality monitor is a good indicator. Read that story on our website: “Researcher maps wood smoke pollution in Valemount.”