Medical Health Officer Dr. Charmaine Enns and Tarek Ayache, air quality meteorologist with the Ministry of Environment, updated the regional district board about the Airshed Roundtable, which explores ways to improve air quality in the Comox Valley.
“We live in a valley,” Enns said at the Sept. 20 meeting. “And the valley, by the nature of being a valley, adds to the challenge of air through the topography and weather. It’s just the reality of where we live.”
Since we can’t change nature, Enns said we need strategies to improve air quality — such as the Wood Smoke Reduction Strategy that guides action to reduce fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) generated through wood burning.
A few years back, Courtenay had been considered a red community, meaning PM 2.5 levels were above acceptable limits. From the latest air zone reporting, the city had dropped to the orange level, meaning concentrations are not far below acceptable limits.
“Action is still needed to lower concentrations even further,” Ayache said.
Low-cost monitors are vital for capturing spatial woodsmoke impacts, identifying hot spots and gauging effects of airshed management actions, he added.