Air Quality


Managing air quality is important to protecting public and environmental health. In the Comox Valley, there are times of the year when fine particulate matter levels (PM2.5) exceed the applicable Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS). These exceedances often occur in fall or winter, a time of year when many valley residents are heating their homes with wood, and when weather conditions result in temperature inversions that trap pollutants such as PM2.5 at ground level.

Q. Who is responsible for air quality management in the Comox Valley?
Q. What is local government doing to improve local air quality?
Q. What can I do to improve local air quality?
Q. What is the “ventilation index” and how does it affect air quality?
Q. What about open burning? What is allowed and when?
Q. Where can I find more information about air quality?

Q. Who is responsible for air quality management in the Comox Valley?
A. Managing air quality is a multi-jurisdictional challenge. The provincial government’s Ministry of Environment (MoE) is responsible for implementing the air quality management system (AQMS) and also addresses air pollution through legislation, codes of practice, permits and standards. As part of AQMS implementation in the Comox Valley, the CVRD has worked with the MoE to establish an air quality monitoring station in the Comox Valley.

Many areas in the Comox Valley have bylaws in place that regulate burning activities. Many of these bylaws are intended to reduce the risk of fire and resulting property damage, though they also provide air quality benefits. For instance, depending on where in the Comox Valley you reside, backyard burning may be prohibited, or may require a permit. For further information on burning restrictions in your neighborhood, check with your local fire department. 

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Q. What is local government doing to improve local air quality?
A. Wood Stove Exchange Program - The CVRD, with funding from the Province of BC, is offering rebates of $250  to eligible homeowners who are switching an old wood-burning appliance for a new efficient and cleaner burning appliance. Further details are available at www.comoxvalleyrd.ca/woodstove.

Air Quality Emissions Inventory - The CVRD partnered with the Ministry of Environment to conduct a particulate matter emissions inventory for the Comox Valley for the baseline year of 2015. The study was completed in March 2017, and is available here [PDF - 1.6 MB].

Air Quality Elected Officials Forum – On April 4, 2017 the CVRD hosted an air quality elected officials forum, where presentations from a variety of experts in the air quality field were brought forward for consideration. The minutes of this forum, including all the presentation materials, are available here.

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Q. What can I do to improve local air quality?
A. If you heat your home with wood, refer to this Smart Wood Stove Burning Practices webpage for some tips on clean efficient wood burning practices.

Instead of burning yard clippings and branches from your property, consider delivering them to the Comox Valley waste management centre where they will be blended into SkyRocket compost. If you are in an area where open burning of yard debris is permitted, and burning of this debris is the only option available to you, consider burning only on days when the ventilation index is “good”, and ensure your fire is extinguished and no longer releasing smoke before evening.  

Refer to this "Cleaner Air for Our Community [PDF - 1.5 MB]" brochure for more tips on reducing wood smoke pollution and keeping our air clean.

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Q. What is the “ventilation index” and how does it affect air quality?
A. The ventilation index or venting index is a measure of the ability of the atmosphere to disperse airborne pollutants such as smoke, and is based on current weather conditions. When there are weather conditions in place that result in temperature inversions, such as cool and clear fall or winter days, the venting index is typically “poor”, meaning the atmosphere is unable to disperse air pollutants, and they are trapped near the surface, resulting in compromised air quality.  

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Q. What about open burning? What is allowed and when?
A. Burning of large land clearing & forestry debris piles (ie slash piles) is to be done in compliance with the Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation. Initiating an open burn must only be done when the ventilation index is “good” and is predicted to be “good” or “fair” on the following day, and material may not be added to the pile if the ventilation index becomes “poor”. The smoke release period must not exceed 96 consecutive hours. If you have concerns regarding smoke from large open burning piles, they can be reported to the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line at 1-877-952-7277. 

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Q. Where can I find more information about air quality?
A. BC Air Quality home page – includes information on air quality advisories, current air quality health index (AQHI), current venting index & links and updates to provincial air quality legislation. 

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