Council Matters - September 5, 2013

In the spring, Council received a presentation by Dr. Paul Hasselback, Medical Health Officer for our region. Dr. Hasselback had noted that we do not meet provincial standards for particulate levels in certain areas and during certain times of the year. He also noted that our community has high levels of hospital admittances for respiratory distress. We know that air quality has a major impact on the health of our community.

At its September 4, 2013, regular meeting Council received a follow-up report from staff on air quality and outdoor burning in North Cowichan that presented data from four air quality Monitoring Stations. The data concluded that woodstoves are the probable cause for particulate levels exceeding provincial standards, and further suggested that replacement of old, inefficient stoves by modern models could reduce smoke by 80%.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District administers a Woodstove Exchange Program that provides up to a $350 incentive for the replacement of a conventional and inefficient woodstove in favour of a high-efficiency unit. This year, 113 rebates were available, and approximately 100 rebates have been issued thus far. In order to meet the annual demand for these rebates, Council has recommended that the program be expanded by 40 rebates a year. Additionally, staff will research regulations on use of woodstoves in neighbouring jurisdictions to provide Council with advice on whether we should restrict woodstove use under certain conditions.
The report went on to look at outdoor burning and gave some options for greater regulation. Council chose to refer the issue to the Climate Action Advisory Committee to look at ways we might reduce outdoor burning through means other than regulation. For instance, would our residents support a yard and garden waste collection service, either by subscription or supported by all taxpayers.
Concern for air quality in our community will remain an important health and environmental issue in coming years. Please contact me if you have any thoughts on this issue.