‘Unprecedented degradation’ of Fraser Valley air led to record number of warnings

Forty air quality advisories issued in last two years more than number seen in 10 years prior

The Fraser Valley’s air has never been dirtier.

The region has been subject to an “unprecedented degradation of air quality” in 2018, according to a new report from the staff of the Fraser Valley Regional District. So far, 21 air quality advisories have been issued this year, with more possibly to come, the report says. That’s more than the 19 advisories issued in 2017, which at the time, was by far the most ever recorded in a single year.

In 24 months, 40 air quality advisories had been issued.

Prior to 2017, the region had never before seen more than 10 advisories in a single year; in the two decades between 1996 and 2016, a total of 65 advisories had been issued – an average of fewer than four days each year.

RELATED: A look at B.C. wildfire smoke from space

Story continues below

Air quality advisories
Infogram

Smoke from wildfires is the most obvious culprit, and the staff notes that trends suggest wildfire seasons are becoming longer and more extreme.

But the report also notes that many of the advisories were attributable to local factors pushing ozone levels beyond the threshold that triggers a health warning. In late July, for instance, particulate matter counts were low, but hot weather, intense sunshine and a prolonged dry spell caused ozone levels to spike.

Poor air brings with it an array of health risks – and not only relating to the body’s respiratory system, Coun. Patricia Ross, who is vice-chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District board, noted. Studies have found breathing poor air has a negative effect on the brain, the heart and the prevalence of diabetes.

“We really do have one of the most challenged airsheds in the world,” Ross said.

A confluence of factors make the Fraser Valley particularly susceptible to factors that pollute the skies.

Prevailing winds blowing air from Metro Vancouver and Northern Washington into the funnel-shaped Fraser Valley frequently leaves residents breathing contaminants that originate to the west and south.

Ross cited a study that found more than half of the ground-level pollution in the Fraser Valley originated in Metro Vancouver, to the west. Another quarter came from the United States.

That means that local planning processes and initiatives can only have a limited effect on the region’s air.

“It’s certainly under-appreciated by those beyond our borders sometimes,” said Ross, who was a vocal opponent of the failed SE2 power plant in Washington State and proposals to burn garbage in Metro Vancouver. Ross, who also opposed the expansion to the Kinder Morgan pipeline, also cited the effects of marine pollution.

“It seems like we’ve constantly got to remind people beyond our borders: ‘Hey, you’re sending [your pollution] this way.’”

Ross said the report also shows the importance of improving the region’s transportation system, citing pollution caused by cars stuck in traffic, saying action is needed to widen the highway and/or improve transit options.

RELATED: 2017 wildfire smoke took toll on Lower Mainland air quality: report

Just Posted

LETTER: Nightmare experience navigating Abbotsford’s roads

One-hour drive around town revealed just how bad some drivers behave

Abbotsford Falcons Peewee Black repeat as provincial champs

Abbotsford football club wins second straight provincial title, blank Coquitlam 20-0 in final

No defence witnesses in trial of man charged in killing of Abbotsford student

‘Change of instructions’ results in defence closing case without calling evidence

Abbotsford’s buses & sidewalks pose difficulties for those in wheelchairs, council told

Self-advocates urge council to improve city facilities for those who use wheelchairs

Accused Abbotsford school killer due back in court after psych assessment

Gabriel Klein could possibly be found ‘not criminally responsible’

‘Kind of lacking:’ Injured Bronco wonders why Canada won’t fund spinal surgery

“I think if Canada can step in and advance this program”

TransLink CEO ‘hopeful’ SkyTrain shutdown can be averted with last-minute deal

No extra buses will be on the roads if strike goes ahead

Chilliwack family’s therapy dog injured in hit and run

Miniature pit bull Fifty’s owner is a single mother facing close to $10,000 in vet bills

Cougar destroyed in Penticton area after mauling dog, killing cat

This is the first reported incident with a cougar this year in the Penticton area

Injured eagle rescued in White Rock: ‘It was the size of a turkey!’

Bald eagle may have gotten into a fight over territory

Don’t expect extra bus service during impending SkyTrain strike, CMBC says

Full SkyTrain shutdown is scheduled to start Tuesday morning

Feds not enforcing standards on Hungarian duck imports, B.C. farmer says

‘You have no way of knowing what’s in the bag’

No reports yet of Canadians affected by New Zealand volcano eruption, feds say

Missing and injured included tourists from the U.S., China, Australia, Britain and Malaysia

Vancouver Giants fall to Spokane Chiefs

‘We are just having a tough time scoring right now’

Most Read