The results from the last round of Delta's dust monitoring program are in and some of the testing areas saw a significant decrease in the amount of coal in the samples.
Last February, civic politicians approved the program that saw dust collected at five locations for onemonth periods. This was done four times throughout the year, with the last samples taken between Dec. 31 and Jan. 30.
Monitoring stations were set up at the North 40, Kensington and John Oliver parks, just north of the Delta Golf Course and on Westview Drive in North Delta.
The stations were set up a varying distances from rail tracks and the amount of coal detected in the dust collected varied from 35 per cent (0.33 milligrams a day of a total of 0.94 mg of dust) at the North 40 site to five per cent (0.01 mg a day in 0.20 mg of dust) at the golf course.
All areas tested were well below the B.C. Air Quality guidelines for dust fall.
The guidelines state that residential areas should see 1.7 mg or less of dust fall daily, and non-residential areas should not have more than 2.9 mg per day. There are no specific guidelines for coal dust.
The municipality has seen a decrease in the coal dust readings at two of the locations - North 40 and John Oliver. The last two samples (January and October) had a significantly lower percentage of coal content than previous readings.
Sean McGill, Delta's human resources and corporate planning director, reported the decrease could be due to wind conditions or dust suppression measures.
"Since both the North 40 and John Oliver sites experienced similar significant reductions in the dust's coal content, it is suspected that a regional change in operational or meteorological conditions occurred," he said.
McGill also noted the vast majority of the coal dust found in the samples was more than 10 microns in diameter. Particles that are smaller than 10 microns are considered more hazardous to human health. "The results have been showing really minimal amounts," said Delta CAO George Harvie.
Metro Vancouver is also monitoring particulate matter at four locations in Delta. That sampling began last July and will continue for a year. Metro Vancouver is looking at the concentration of inhalable particulate matter fewer than 10 microns in diameter and specifically coal dust particulate in the air.
A University of B.C. student is also conducting his own study looking at coal dust emissions from transportation at John Oliver Park.
In recent years, Westshore Terminals has upgraded its dust suppression system and coal trains are now subject to two dust-suppression sprays en route to the Roberts Bank terminal.