UBC study: Emissions from proposed Metro Vancouver waste incinerators may be
harmful to Fraser Valley airshed

- Study calls for caution given sensitivity of the Lower Fraser Valley Airshed, rising background pollution levels, potential impacts of climate change and mounting concerns over human health impacts -

CHILLIWACK, BC, March 15 /CNW/ - A Scientist at the University of British Columbia today released a new air quality study that recommends against adding any new sources of air pollution to the Fraser Valley's sensitive airshed, including one or more proposed waste incinerators in Metro Vancouver. The study, commissioned by the Fraser Valley Regional District, also notes that "serious and reasonable" concerns regarding the impact of mass waste incineration on human health must be addressed before moving forward with this proposed approach.

Authored by Professor Ian McKendry from the Geography Department (Atmospheric Science Program) at U.B.C., the study reviewed the current geographical and meteorological conditions in the Lower Fraser Valley (LFV), current concentrations and sources of air pollution in the region, and the impact of this pollution on human health. It then factored in the potential impact of additional waste incineration in the Lower Mainland, based on the current draft regional solid waste management plan recently put forward by the Metro Vancouver Regional District.

"The Fraser Valley is already the subject of considerable scientific attention by virtue of its complex topography and the nature of its air pollution chemistry," said Professor McKendry. "Given forecast population growth, rising background pollutant levels and global climate change, the addition of any new sources of combustion in the Lower Mainland, including mass burn waste incineration, is simply not advisable."

"At the same time, there is a large body of credible published evidence to suggest that there is sufficient cause for concern around the potential health risks posed by modern waste incinerators, especially from dioxins and nano-particles. At a minimum, the current research suggests the adoption of the 'precautionary principle' when evaluating the merits of additional waste incineration in the Lower Mainland," added Professor McKendry.

Patricia Ross, Chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District, said, "This study highlights the growing risk and uncertainty associated the health impact of incinerator emissions and reinforces the need to take every precaution before agreeing to add additional sources of pollution to the air we breathe. Given the increasing risk we face, the people of the Fraser Valley deserve to see an open and informed examination, by a provincially appointed independent entity, of the proposed facility on the full range of waste management alternatives available to Metro Vancouver, including the environmental and human health risks associated with each."

In addition to human health concerns, given the region's rich agricultural base, there is concern that air pollution may have an impact on vegetation, including economically important crops, as well as the general ecological health of remote sites in the region.

The study compares the LFV to other air quality "hot spots" such as the Los Angeles basin, Tokyo, and Mexico City. It also makes the point that European locations with existing waste incinerators do not generally share the same complex airshed characteristics as the LFV. The study suggests a more appropriate comparison to the air pollution meteorology of LVR might be found in Japan, where approximately 70% of the world's waste incinerators are located. It notes that impacts from dioxins in Japan have been significant and are a major ongoing issue with the incineration industry in that country.

Finally, the study points out that because of a significant upward trend in pollution that is transported across the Pacific to the LFV from growing sources in Asia and beyond, air pollution is no longer a local problem. To maintain current air quality we will likely need to reduce local emissions in the future. Furthermore, global climate change is expected to have a negative impact on air quality in the LVR for two principal reasons: one, an increasing number of hot, dry weather patterns will result in a corresponding increase in the frequency and severity of degraded air quality episodes, similar to those experienced at the height of the summer; and two, the expected rise in the number of forest fires in the region and the corresponding increase in smoke related air pollution.

A copy of this study along with a package of information on this topic was personally hand delivered to Metro Vancouver through Greg Moore, Chair of their Solid Waste Committee on February 3rd, 2010.

The Fraser Valley Regional District is comprised of six municipalities (City of Abbotsford, City of Chilliwack, District of Mission, District of Hope, District of Kent and Village of Harrison Hot Springs) plus seven electoral areas. The current estimated population is 280,000 and it is nearly 14,000 square km in size.

To view the report by Dr. Ian McKendry titled "Air Quality in the Lower Fraser Valley and Waste to Energy Incineration - an Overview", please go to www.fvrd.bc.ca/services/airquality


For further information: For further information: Ian McKendry, UBC, (604) 822-4929 or Email: ian@geog.ubc.ca; Patricia Ross, Chair, Fraser Valley Regional District, (778) 549-0708 or Email: pross@abbotsford.ca

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