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REPORTING · 25th July 2014
Walter McFarlane
Government claims Kitimat can handle growth if Airshed is Managed

The Kitimat Air Shed Assessment which was commissioned by the Province of BC has been completed and the report has been released. The report was commissioned to inform policy for future activity in the Kitimat area. The report was authored by Etha Technologies and used the same methodology as a study which was done by Rio Tinto Alcan.

“Our government wants to ensure that emissions from any industrial development can be safely accommodated within the Kitimat air shed and, of course, we have that consideration across British Columbia. This is why the province funded an independent science based study to closely examine the potential cumulative impacts from potential industrial air emissions within the air shed. We want to ensure any potential impacts from industrial air emissions are clearly understood before new projects are approved and operational,” said Environmental Minister Mary Polak.

The primary objective was to look at the air emission scenarios based on the projects proposed for the Kitimat Valley, although there is barely any mention of Enbridge, and determine whether the air shed could accommodate it. The average exposure to risk is determined by the proximity to the industrial area which produces the emissions.

There were 12 potential scenarios which the report addressed, which ranged from a low emission scenario to a high emission scenario. The report looks at both the projects and the expected increases in traffic, marine and road traffic.

The report shows the emission profiles of the industries are different than the prior development in the Kitimat area. The report focused on Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) emissions. Each of the projects will produce varying amounts of these gasses.

This report does not look at greenhouse gasses, climate change and particulate matter. Greenhouse gasses are being looked at by a different study.

“These particular substances have an immediate impact on human health and vegetative health and the receiving environment, unlike GHG’s which are a more global impact and, of course, have an impact on climate change,” said Polak.

In addition, the risks will most likely be lower then what they are in the report, a protective assumption was applied. The risks in the report were purposely overstated. One year’s metrological data (2008) was used to determine these results, although a decade’s worth of years were looked at.

The environmental impacts are assessed to be low. In all scenarios, the impact to vegetation was considered to be low. Soil acidification was considered to be high in one scenario, but this was due to estimate being more then what was expected. Lake acidification was high because of the meteorological data from 2008. If other years were included, it would be lower. These lakes were identified in the Alcan Study and the monitoring will continue.

The levels of SO2 concentrations in the Kitimat Valley were found to be lower than in other industrial centres. In Kitimat proper and Service Centre, they were above the levels observed in other parts of the province. The predicted NO2 concentrations were all on and below the levels around the urbanized areas of the province but were above others.

The conclusion was these emissions were fully manageable in the air shed and the Province will consider treatment through the permitting processes. The SO2 produced by Rio Tinto Alcan will be managed through their existing permit.

“The study tells us that with proper management, there is significant capacity in the Kitimat air shed to safely accommodate industrial growth while still protecting human health and the environment,” said Polak.

A study which was done by Skeena Wild last year was not looked at in relation to this study.

The government will continue working with industry to continue monitoring the air, water, soil and vegetation. Each proponent will be required to do a more detailed analysis as they go into the environmental assessment process and into industrial permitting.

The full report can be found online by clicking this sentence.