Devices important to alerting residents of hazards, says clean air society chair

NOVEMBER 8, 2012

REBECCA ALDOUS
RALDOUS@SQUAMISHCHIEF.COM

Squamish’s air quality monitoring station has turned into a bit of a Frankenstein.

Established in 1972, equipment has been added as technology progresses, said Graham Veale, a B.C. Ministry of Environment air quality meteorologist. The station fills a room in a downtown building, with its devices spilling into a stairwell. Adding to that, there’s stuff on the roof, Veale said.

“It has become unstructured,” he said, noting ministry staff have problems keeping the electronics cool in the summer.

The instruments have blown the breaker, he said. “What we would like to do is consolidate the equipment,” he said.

To do that, the station needs a new space. The hunt for a home was ongoing this past summer, Veale said. Ideally, the instruments would be housed in a 10-by-16-foot trailer, he noted. A downtown location would be ideal and a place with good air flow, Veale said. But having looked at various sites, ministry staff are back to Square 1.

“Given the way things are going, we would be open to look at any locale,” he said.

In the meantime, the ministry will keep operating the station. However, it’s becoming more and more difficult to do so, Veale said.

The station provides an important service to Squamish and the Sea to Sky Corridor, said Peter Frinton, chair of the Sea to Sky Clean Air Society. Not only does it provide the ministry with data to track conditions, but it also alerts residents when air-quality levels become hazardous.

“The data collection is the equivalent of reading the Richter scale,” he said. “That is what you make important decisions from.”

Highway 99 poses the greatest air quality threat in the area, Frinton said. Wood-burning stoves also contribute to pollutants, as do forest fires, he added. The clean air society is focusing on regional transportation to combat pollution.

“The commuter culture in Squamish is way up there,” Frinton said.

Last summer, the society held Compute the Commute, an event that brought regional transit stakeholders together to discuss transportation options. On Oct. 29, the organization held a strategic planning session to guide its future actions.

The society still has 50, $250 rebate vouchers available for Sea to Sky Corridor residents who switch their wood stoves to cleaner-burning systems, Frinton added. For more information visit www.seatoskyairquality.ca. To learn more about Squamish’s air quality visit www.bcairquality.ca.