Air quality options eyed

Debate over the need for air quality programs continues to smoulder.

The North Okanagan Regional District will ask member jurisdictions if they are willing to consider options for possibly providing a variety of initiatives that help tackle air pollution.

“We don’t necessarily need a new function,” said director Wayne Lippert, adding that some of the programs could possibly be done within the current NORD structure.

The regional district ended its air quality function last year after a number of jurisdictions dropped out, largely because of cost.

In the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District, air quality issues are not part of an individual function, but are instead handled by existing departments.

“Chipping is done through the landfills. Bylaw review is done by administration staff,” said Allan Patton, an OSRD representative.

“Plastics and recycling are done by public works. It doesn’t take much commitment of staff time if it’s spread out.”

Since NORD’s function ceased, it has not had a voice at the Okanagan-Similkameen Coalition, which involves OSRD and the Central Okanagan Regional District.

“It takes a valley-wide, co-operative approach in all things to do with air quality,” said Patton, who is coalition chairperson.

Among the areas the coalition focuses on are seeking government grants, planning, a wood stove exchange, farm chipping, anti-idling signs and dust control.

But Patton says the coalition has no taxing authority and does not impose its will.

“Decision-making powers lie within the purview of each regional district and not the coalition,” he said.

“You decide if you want to spend money on programs or not, regardless of what other regional districts are doing. You control your own situation financially.”

NORD is being asked to send two political representatives to coalition meetings.

Director Buffy Baumbrough questions NORD participating in the coalition if the regional district does not have staff available to act on air quality concerns.

“How will we address the issues raised by the coalition and if there are grants from senior government?” she said.

“How will we ensure that we can oversee those programs?”