The City of West Kelowna is doing the best it can when it comes to clean air locally and is on track with contributing positively to good air quality in the Central Okanagan.
During a Tuesday, Oct. 19 meeting, councillors heard an update on what staff have been doing in terms of implementing the city’s clean air strategy.
Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO) air quality coordinator Nancy Mora Castro said the Central Okanagan generally has good air quality overall, except for one main concern: fine particulate matter from wildfire smoke and other pollutants.
Castro said fine particulates weren’t a big concern in the region before but with intense wildfires predicted to become more and more frequent in the valley, it’s time to re-assess and set up ways that can help lessen exposure.
“Eighty per cent of the health effects due to wildfire smoke is caused by long-term exposure,” she said.
“That’s why it’s really important for us as a local government to reduce or avoid all particulate matter that is in our control and within our local jurisdiction.”
She said the city has been issuing fewer burning permits, which has helped reduce the fine particulates in the air and improve overall air quality.
Part of the city’s work to reduce air pollution include a woodstove exchange program, radon awareness campaigns, as well as idling awareness campaigns.
“We were actually the precursors of that program, it started here in the Central Okanagan, then in 2008 it became a provincial,” Castro said.
Through the RDCO-led exchange program, 726 residents have received rebates after exchanging their woodstoves for more efficient heating systems. The program is voluntary but Castro said that if the city decided to pass a bylaw, it could push more people to exchange their appliances, which will then make the reduction in pollutant emissions substantial.
Castro said the next steps for the City of West Kelowna, overall, include looking at and amending bylaws regarding vehicle idling, open burning and campfires, as well as expanding radon outreach and awareness campaigns.
In all, the City of West Kelowna is on track but Mayor Gord Milsom did agree that in order to further improve air quality in the region, the city will need to work more on its awareness campaigns.