Neither the regional district nor municipalities like Delta can ban the installation of polluting wood-burning fireplaces or appliances in homes, despite their impact on air quality.
It's something that needs to change, according to Delta council, which recently discussed a staff report on the issue.
"It occurred to me we seem to make a great to-do about diesel engines and other industries polluting, and yet, wood smoke, which is originating in the Lower Mainland, is the number one source of particulate in the region," said Mayor Lois Jackson.
"I think we have to pay a lot more attention because if this is 25 per cent of the particulate in the whole Lower Mainland, it's one of the worst because this can be a killer for people," she said.
The report notes residential wood smoke is seen as the main primarily unregulated source of fine particulate emissions in the region and its relative contribution to local air pollution is increasing as successful measures to reduce other sources of fine particulate have been implemented.
Legislation exists at the provincial and regional level that can potentially prohibit a resident from using a wood-burning appliance if pollution is occurring. Metro Vancouver is looking at potential regulatory actions, but the authority rests with the province, which is currently reviewing emission standards for wood-burning appliances sold in B.C. The issue came up in Delta last fall when an air quality advisory was issued for much of the Metro Vancouver region, specifically Richmond, Surrey, Langley, Pitt Meadows, Delta and New Westminster.
Conditions reportedly deteriorated due to the burning of wood stoves and fireplaces, according to the regional district.
Council at the time asked for a report on the issue and during discussion recently, deputy planning director Marcy Sangret noted Delta does not have the authority to ban wood-burning appliances in new home construction. All those applications must do is adhere to the B.C. Building Code.
Noting she does not believe any Lower Mainland municipality has tried to implement such as ban, Sangret said only a small percentage of new homes have wood-burning devices. In fact, last year just one application was approved.