Red Deer air quality: One-two punch against pollution

Red Deerians will be recruited to do their part to improve the city’s sub-par air quality.

Red Deerians will be recruited to do their part to improve the city’s sub-par air quality.

City council also voted to adopt a tree policy and embark on a tree planting strategy to boost their density.

All three measures were recommendations from the city’s environmental advisory committee, which took on the job of coming up with ways to improve the city’s air quality.

Air pollution became a big issue when it was revealed that between 2011 and 2013 the city failed to achieve Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards for fine particulate matter. Fine particulates are mostly released in the exhaust from vehicles, smoke stacks from industry and other emission sources.

The revelation about Red Deer’s air quality triggered a provincial regional response plan to being the numbers down. In April 2016, a plan was released calling for more scientific study to determine where the fine particulates are coming from, to develop a regional approach to reducing particulates as well as creating a province-wide action plan.

Among the measures proposed is the promotion of idle-free and carpool programs, switching city fleet vehicles to less polluting versions, purchasing green power and developing an education program among other suggestions.

The city is also committed to working with Parkland Airshed Management Zone (PAMZ) and its monitoring program.

PAMZ executive director Kevin Warren said spreading the word about ways to reduce emissions is likely to have the most impact if it can change enough minds.

“I think the increased education of the three measures would probably have the greatest effect on the particulate matter issue,” said Warren. “That’s something that PAMZ would be happy to work with the city on.”

Public education can make a difference, but it’s not a quick solution.

“The big step is to get (motorists) to change their behaviour,” he said. “When gas is 90 cents a litre it’s more of a challenge than when it’s $1.30 or $1.40.”

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Warren said work is already underway to identify the source of pollution and why ambient air quality standards are being exceeded.

A pollution modelling project that was used in the Edmonton region last year is being introduced in the Red Deer area.

Besides the two monitoring stations that have been in place for years in Red Deer, a third monitoring station is being set up upwind of the city to gather more data.

Warren was scoping out locations for that third monitoring trailer provided by Alberta Environment and Parks on Tuesday.

The trailer will monitor for the next six months and it’s hoped that a few high-particulate days will occur to provide some important information. Very cold weather when conversions occur typically produce the worst pollution days.

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