On Tuesday, Feb. 15, a delegation from the Golden and District Air Quality Committee gave a presentation asking town council to take action on air quality in the region, proposing a new bylaw for Golden.
The air quality delegation appearing before council included Meg Langley and Paula Steinheber, who are both directors with the air quality committee, and contractor Annette Lutterman.
The presentation came on the heels of yet another air quality advisory being issued for Golden on Monday, Feb. 14, due to a high concentration of fine particulate matter in the air.
“We in Golden are breathing air that is contaminated from a large number of sources – home heating, industry and transportation,” said Langley to start the presentation.
“With increasing regional wildfires the exposure to particulate pollution is increasing and becoming more dangerous.”
Langley explained there are two meters in Golden that measure and monitor particulate matter in the air, and that the data indicates the peak hours of particulates in the air relates to when heat and wood stoves are heavily contributing to poor air quality in the winter.
“The timing during the day points to wood stoves as contributors, and while we need to reduce emissions from all sources not just one item, wood stoves are easy to reduce,” Langley said.
Langley says most people come home and fire up the wood stove, allowing it to smolder through the evening and night, which creates more pollutants.
She says it’s important to burn your stove hot and fast, and to not let it smolder overnight.
Golden used to have a bylaw, which was enacted in 2005, which dealt with solid burning appliances. Bylaw number 1150 partially stated that “the installation of solid fuel burning appliances is prohibited, except where such an appliance is replacing an existing solid fuel burning appliance.”
The bylaw also required that solid fuel burning appliances that were installed had to be certified to the Canadian Standards Association and the US Environmental Protection Agency particulate emission standards at the time.
The bylaw was overturned in 2012. Langley and their air quality committee would like to see a new bylaw introduced. “We’ve had this problem in Golden for a long time, especially since the previous bylaw was removed. We’ve seen a decline in our air, not an improvement,” she said.“The former bylaw shows a historic recognition of the problem in Golden. Our local government has the power and the responsibility to do something.”
Data shows that Golden compares poorly to other similar towns in B.C. and across North America, with Langley referencing 2020 data that showed Golden ranked poorly in air quality, even in a year with little wildfire smoke.
Langley says air quality is important, as it’s affecting those who live in town and come to visit.
“The terrible air quality is the one thing that would make me leave,” she remarked.
She also noted that Louisiana Pacific, CP and truck traffic can contribute to the air quality, but noted those industries are also making moves to help improve air quality.
Fine particulates, such as PM2.5, which is the particle of concern with wildfires and wood stoves and was the reason for the air quality advisory last week, are able to travel deeply into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs.
Exposure to fine particles can cause short-term health effects such as eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath.
It can also affect lung function and worsen medical conditions, according to the advisory that was issued.
Studies also suggest long- term exposure to fine particulate matter may be associated with increased rates of chronic bronchitis, reduced lung function, and increased mortality from lung cancer and heart disease.