To the editor:
Dealing with air quality in our valley is not a new initiative. In fact as far back as 1998 an Air Quality Committee was charged with the development and implementation of an Air Quality Management Plan for the Central Okanagan Regional District (CORD).
At that time the importance of air quality was highlighted with reference to health, economics and tourism. It was recognized that our valley topography, weather patterns and the population growth could result in a significant impact on air quality.
Dust particles and smoke were the two types of pollutants in our valley that exceeded national standards. Ozone levels were also identified to contribute to poor air quality. Sources included such things as engine exhaust, smoke, soil and trees and high levels of ozone were often measured along Highway 97.
Outdoor burning and smoke control bylaws were introduced through collaboration of the municipalities and regional district, wood stove industry, college, health region, okanagan asthma network, agriculture and forestry and provincial and federal ministries.
Experts and professionals also began to focus on the technical aspects of the Airshed Management Plan.
A Memorandum of Understanding was also formed between the three regional districts in the Okanagan in the formation of an Okanagan Airshed Coalition that would work cooperatively to develop initiatives to improve outdoor air quality.
It is not necessary to reinvent the wheel.
Air quality planning has already been done. There was excellent cooperation throughout the valley in working towards air quality. There are years of available data and plans for improving air quality likely now sitting on a shelf. Those plans just need to be dusted off and identify what still needs to be done.
Bylaws in existence need to be enforced or changed to address the needs for 2015. Chipping programs for the agriculture community need to be supported. Control burning for forestry with proper venting and dried product need to be maintained. Programs for wood-stove exchange and old vehicle scrapping should be upheld. Regular reporting of air quality venting index along with education should be sustained. The community greenhouse gas reduction plan should be continued.
In conclusion, it is imperative to work cooperatively with the North and South Okanagan regional districts on valley-wide air quality strategies. Striving for continued air quality improvements without any lapses should be a mandate for all of us.
Air quality planning is not new, it just needs the political commitment to be a priority.
former Regional District of the Central Okanagan Air Quality Committee chair,