City council takes action on air quality

  • Aug. 31, 2016 2:58 p.m.

The City of Red Deer is taking action to improve air quality in the community.

Last year, the City learned Red Deer’s air quality was rated some of the poorest among Canadian municipalities.

Between 2011 and 2013, Red Deer failed to achieve Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards. The Red Deer air zone exceeded national levels both as measured for a 24-hour period and annual averages. The exceedances were measured at the Red Deer Riverside monitoring station.

“I know it was a shock for a lot of people to hear that Red Deer’s air quality was not meeting the standard because we have beautiful blue skies and we look out on a day like today and it looks pretty beautiful out there, so it is hard for us to imagine that we have poor air quality – we don’t see the smog,” said Nancy Hackett, environmental initiatives supervisor for the City of Red Deer. “It’s news no one would like to have – that we have poor air quality – but I think it’s been really positive since then about how we move forward and how we improve our air quality.”

This past April the Alberta Government released the Red Deer Area Fine Particulate Matter Response Plan. In May, the Environmental Advisory Committee passed a resolution recommending actions the City can take to improve air quality in Red Deer.

“Fine Particulate Matter are bits in the air that can be in solid or liquid form that are less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter – so that is smaller than a human hair,” said Hackett. “They can’t be seen but they can lodge in your lungs or they can create environmental damage for ecology and that is why they are called fine.

“They pose a large health and environmental risk and both man-made and natural sources can contribute to that – dust can contribute to that, or forest fire smoke, but also emissions from our vehicles, exhaust from our home heating chimneys and things like that.”

On Monday, council voted in favour of adding three actions to the Environmental Master Plan which is set to commence in 2017 in regards to improving the community’s air quality. Those actions include increased public education on ways to improve air quality, introducing a tree planting policy and to plant additional trees within the City to increase the density of trees.

Currently they City does not have a policy in terms of how many trees they are going to plant in a year for environmental targets. “This policy would look at if we want to clean our air using trees, than how many trees do we need to be planting in a year, where, and what kind of species,” said Hackett.

City council voted in favour of including the three proposed actions into next year’s Environmental Master Plan.

Councillor Paul Harris was absent.