Air qual­ity im­proves, but city must be vig­i­lant: en­vi­ron­ment group

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - KEVIN WERNER

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.

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