By Andru McCracken

The first air quality advisory of this cool season was issued today at 10am, Nov. 1st.

The Ministry of the Environment and Northern Health issued the advisory due to high concentrations of particulate matter that are expected to persist until a high pressure system leaves the area.

Valemountonians are prohibited from using wood burning appliances during air quality advisories if they have another way of heating their homes for the duration of the advisory.

According to Village Bylaw 838, “A person will not use a wood-burning appliance at any time when an air quality advisory is in effect, except to heat premises that are equipped with no heating source other than the wood burning appliance.”

Industry is also required to change their practices to reduce emissions wherever possible.

According to Northern Health, the build-up of fine particulate matter can have grave consequences.

“Exposure is particularly a concern for individuals with chronic conditions such as asthma, COPD, heart disease, and diabetes; respiratory infections such as COVID-19, pregnant women, infants and older adults.”

The advisory asks those with chronic conditions to postpone or reduce strenuous exercise until the advisory is lifted. It also says to avoid roads with heavy vehicle traffic and areas with wood smoke.

“Anyone experiencing symptoms such as continuing eye or throat irritation, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, cough or wheezing should follow the advice of their health care provider. Staying indoors helps to reduce particulate matter exposure.”

Clear days, smoky nights

Provincial meteorologist Gail Roth said that while the air quality improved during this morning (Monday, November 1), the advisory will remain in place, because pollutants have been building up in the air consistently for three days.

She said this is typical for Valemount during a high pressure system. 

“There are really high concentrations early, mid-morning and evening; in the morning the sun heats the ground and moves the pollution away from the ground,” she said.

In the evening, the pollutants settle and the air quality worsens and remains that way until morning..

“During the day the air quality is quite good, this pattern is very typical for Valemount,” she said.

The advisory will remain on for today and be reassessed tomorrow.

The provincial air quality objective for PM2.5 particulate is 25 micrograms per cubic metre (“µg/m3), averaged over 24 hours. Valemount’s 24-h average was 48.2 “µg/m3 Monday morning, with a low of 1.9 “µg/m3 mid-afternoon Oct 31st and high of 148.4 “µg/m3 that evening.

This map shows the average spatial patterns captured by an aethalometer which measures a signal specific to woodsmoke called ‘Delta C’. The map was created by a researcher in 2018 to measure the intensity and distribution of residential woodsmoke in various Valemount neighbourhoods on certain days.