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Delta readying for more poor air quality

Wildfire smoke had degraded regional air quality in seven of the last nine summers
Metro’s air quality advisories are issued by the regional district for the entire Lower Fraser Valley airshed, including Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Regional District, when air quality is degraded or expected to degrade. Sandor Gyarmati photo

Residents in Delta, especially seniors and those with breathing problems, have even more to worry due to wildfires this summer.

During a recent presentation to council on the city’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan and Heat Response Plan, Fire Chief Guy McKintuck also outlined the city’s air quality advisory response.

His report notes that periods of hot weather often coincide with wildfire events and periods of poor air quality due to wildfire smoke, but Delta’s cooling centres have a high level of air filtration that can serve the double purpose of allowing people to escape the heat and smoke.

“With the issuance of air quality advisories by Metro Vancouver, staff will continue to use social media channels and other public notification tools such as electronic reader boards, alerts to seniors through the city’s seniors centres, and partner mobilization through social planning e-lists to communicate information regarding current air quality and any recommendations from public health in response to air quality,” the report explains.

A recent Metro Vancouver staff report to the Climate Action Committee, Air Quality Advisory Program and Preparedness for 2024, says staff have worked closely with local health authorities to make the language in the air quality advisory easier to understand, resulting in more effective communication of key messages to a broader audience.

The summer heat dome in 2021 saw a return to ground-level ozone levels not experienced since the 1980s, and on May 15, 2023, Metro Vancouver issued its earliest ozone advisory since the air quality advisory program began in 1993.

“With a changing climate, the region can expect warmer, drier summers, and longer periods of drought in the Metro Vancouver region, which can lead to more frequent and severe wildfire smoke impacts and elevated levels of ground-level ozone. These impacts are occurring now, with the region experiencing widespread wildfire smoke impacts in seven of the last nine summers,” the report notes.

The regional district’s Ground-Level Ozone Strategy, adopted in 2014 by the Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley Regional District boards, focused on managing emissions within the airshed that contribute to ground-level ozone. However, extreme temperatures and new sources of emissions, including wildfires, have necessitated an update to the strategy, which is part of the Climate Action Committee’s 2024 Work Plan.