Air quality improves, but city must be vigilant: environment group
Hamiltonians can breathe a lot easier thanks to its better air quality, according to Clean Air Hamilton.
Denis Corr, the environmental group’s chair, said the city has witnessed a 90 per cent improvement to its air quality since the 1970s.
“We should all be proud of that,” Corr told city councillors at the recent board of health meeting as he presented the organization’s 2016 annual progress report.
The cleaner air includes a 55 per cent reduction in total suspended particulate matter, a 53 per cent drop in nitrogen dioxide, a 87 per cent decrease in benzene levels, a 47 per cent reduction in sulphur dioxide over 20 years, and a 26 per cent reduction in respirable particulate matter over 17 years.
As recently as 2014, Hamilton was above the provincial average — about 10 micrograms per cubic metre of air — for particulate matter 2.5 microns or smaller which can enter a person’s airways. However, over the last couple of years, the city has seen a reduction to about eight micrograms per cubic metre of air. Hamilton’s levels are still higher than Toronto, Kitchener and London.
Corr suggested that one of the reasons Hamilton is seeing an economic boom, especially in real estate, is due to its improved air quality.
The city’s air quality improvement has meant a decrease in the number of deaths in Hamilton due to air pollution from an average 229 in 2003 to about 186 in 2012, and slightly down for 2016.
As well, smog advisory days, declared with the air quality index reaches 50 or more, based on levels of ground level ozone, particular matter, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, are mostly a thing of the past. There were 45 smog days in 2005, 18 smog days in 2012, two in 2013 and none in 2015.
However, councillors and activists say industries and government enforcement are crucial to combating pollution.
Ward 5 Coun. Chad Collins has battled companies along Eastport Drive to control dust and other material that impacts the beach community. He said repeated efforts to get provincial help have been limited.
“Municipalities need more control over their destinies to enforce problems regarding the airshed relating to the industries in the area,” he said. “We’ve had little to no action (from the province).”
Lynda Lukasik, chair of Environment Hamilton, said her group has documented high levels of respirable particulate material in the city’s industrial area.
She suggested a number of actions the city can do to improve the air quality, including; enforcing its street bylaw to force companies to clean up their property, enhance the city’s street sweeping program and request the province to enforce current air quality regulations.
“It’s not just drag out on roadways that is the source of particulate matter, but industries from stacks and emissions,” said Lukasik.