Working Together to Address Air Quality in the Comox Valley

Air Quality is a growing concern in the Comox Valley. There is a compelling scientific case establishing that particulate matter (PM2.5) levels in the Comox Valley seasonally exceed provincial and national standards and that biomass burning (from residential heating and open burning) is the predominant source. This type of pollutant is of particular concern as its small size enables it to enter deep into the lungs, penetrating the lung barrier and entering the bloodstream. Exposure to PM2.5 can lead to a range of short and long term human health impacts, particularly for cardiovascular health. There is no known threshold for a “safe” level of PM2.5; every bit of improvement in PM2.5 levels in the air, can decrease negative health impacts. Beyond residential heating and open burning, many different contaminants can affect air quality in the Comox Valley such as agricultural sources, mobile sources (e.g. transportation) and fugitive dust (e.g. construction operations). Managing air quality is a multi-jurisdictional challenge involving many levels of government as well as citizens. The pathways to improving air quality touch on personal choice and behaviours, social norms, socioeconomic inequities, government regulation and cultural values.

Project Description

Actioned under the Regional Growth Strategy service, the overall purpose of this project is to collaboratively develop and implement a Regional Airshed Protection Strategy to guide our actions moving forward. This will be achieved through the following framework:

Air Quality Coordinator

To support the initiative, the CVRD has hired Pinna Sustainability to act as the Air Quality Coordinator. The Coordinator role will support all aspects of the project including setting up the Steering Committee/Airshed Roundtable, communications, facilitation, strategy development, seeking funding opportunities and reporting.

Steering Committee

The purpose of the Steering Committee is to advance the work, (setting priorities and providing direction), identify knowledge gaps and support research and engagement to reduce those gaps, support strategic planning and act as champions for air quality management. The Steering Committee is comprised of staff from the City of Courtenay; Village of Cumberland; Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy; Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development; Island Health; and Vancouver Island University.

Airshed Roundtable

The purpose of the Roundtable is to help establish and identify shared priorities; help focus priorities to establish short, medium- and long-term actions; provide direction and lend expertise; assist with knowledge transfer; participate in strategic planning; and provide ongoing project support to the Steering Committee. A list of Roundtable members can be found here.

Working Groups

Select members of the Roundtable may form working groups to explore a specific task on an as needed basis.

Project Goals

The CVRD expects the implementation of a Regional Airshed Protection Strategy will be a long term endeavour. The chart below represents some of the main milestones we are hoping to achieve in the next three years.

DeliverablesOutcomes
1. Formation of the Airshed Roundtable, Steering Committee and Working Groups
  • Stakeholders and representatives identified for the Roundtable and Steering Committee.
  • Continuous and ongoing work to achieve goals and objectives of the Roundtable.
2. Communications
  • Keep the public informed of the activities of the Airshed Roundtable.
  • Engage the public in the development of the Airshed Protection Strategy.
3. Regional Airshed Protection Strategy
  • Develop a State of the Air Memo outlining efforts to date, opportunities and best practices.
  • Collaboratively develop a Regional Airshed Protection Strategy including an implementation and monitoring framework and process to keep these documents up to date.
4. Funding
  • Apply for relevant grants to support the work of the Roundtable.

 

 

State of the Air Memo

The State of the Air Memo provides background to the Airshed Roundtable by summarizing the current state of the air in the Comox Valley (air quality data, pollutant sources, studies and work completed to date), highlights how air pollutant sources are regulated and managed, and provides examples of what an Airshed Protection Strategy may include. It provides members of the Roundtable a common understanding of this information in preparation for collaboratively developing a Airshed Protection Strategy for Comox Valley. A condensed version for the general public will be available soon.

Project Timeline/Next Steps

  • June 2020 - First meeting of the Steering Committee held
  • September 2020 - First meeting of the Airshed Roundtable
  • September 2020 - Completion of the State of the Air memo
  • Fall 2020 - Additional meetings and discussion about air quality issues to inform the development of the Airshed Protection Strategy

Staff Reports

Presentations

Other Resources

For more information

Contact Air Quality Coordinator, Pinna Sustainability Email.