Golden has been enjoying an unusually warm and sunny spring in 2015 but it’s not without its costs, especially for some residents in Parson.
Chiefly among those affected is Valerie Davidison, who originally moved to the Columbia Valley to escape the pollution of the Lower Mainland.
Davidson suffers from multiple chemical sensitivity, an ailment that affects her breathing and causes her to use supplemental oxygen as required.
And it’s been needed a lot more this year due to the dry conditions and the frequent logging trucks that stir up the dust around her home near the intersection of Parson River Crossing and Thomas Rd.
“They are going through there one after the other,” Davidson said, while noting that as many as 12 trucks were hauling along the dirt roads by her home for 12 hours a day starting in February.
Canfor, the logging company that utilizes the roads in the area, did not return a request for comment.
Davidson says she spends almost all of her time indoors now because of how dusty the air is around her home. Venturing outside has become nearly unbearable.
“It affects my eyes, it affects my brain…it affects my mood,” Davidson said. “Breathing is sort of the last thing. Everything else goes and then breathing. My throat is swollen. I have a sleep apnea machine but I can’t use it because I can’t breathe well enough.”
Emcon (formerly HMC) has jurisdiction over Thomas Rd (Parson River Crossing is primarily a forest service road and out of Emcon’s jurisdiction) and was scheduled to begin dust treatment across the area this week.
While Division Manager Greg Ehman says that they have been aware of the problem for some time, and have received multiple complaints from residents, treatment to help reduce dust in the area hasn’t been possible until now.
“In this area we get out of winter usually quite late and the challenges that we deal with are extended load restrictions. So our ability to grade the roads and effectively maintain the roads is often hampered by the frost that’s left in the ground. We have to wait…until the load restrictions are off and the frost is fully out of the ground,” he said.
A perfect storm of a warm winter and a dry spring has compounded the problem, he says, creating “the worst year (Emcon) has ever seen” with regards to this issue.
Ehman understands the frustration level of local residents and admits that more preparedness is needed.
“Going forward we can try to be a little bit more prepared, working with the Ministry of Transportation, and have a plan in the event that these things happen in the future,” he said.
Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald has also received complaints from his constituents and believes proper solutions need to be explored to prevent seasons like this one.
“The dust problems are more than an inconvenience, they’re both a safety and a health problem…while weather conditions impact the amount of dust it is a predictable problem.
“It needs to be better going forward now and we need to be better prepared next spring. That’s the message that I’ve given to government,” Macdonald said.
All of this is of little comfort for Davidson in the short term, who believed she had left much of her health problems behind when she moved to the rural Columbia Valley.
“When I came out here it virtually went away,” Davidson said of her condition.
Davidson’s home, which she and her husband built themselves, is specially designed to meet her unique needs and includes a special filtration system. Still, her house was not designed for dust like she has experienced this spring.
Despite all that she’s had to deal with, Davidson says she has no plans to move.
“I moved here to escape…there’s no where else to go. We searched the whole province to find a place,” she said.
Davidson, who has repeatedly contacted all of the involved parties, says she plans to send out a letter in an attempt to get everyone together.
Her request is a simple one.
“I’d like them to maintain the roads to the standards that (should) be expected,” Davidson said.