Air quality three times worse than Kelowna has prompted another dust advisory for Vernon.
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy in collaboration with the Interior Health Authority issued the advisory Tuesday, March 7 because of high concentrations of coarse particulate matter that are expected to persist until there is precipitation, dust suppression or a change in traffic patterns.
Vernon’s dust concentration is 67.2 PM10 (particles 10 micrometers or smaller in diameter). Meanwhile Kelowna’s is 22.6.
The provincial air quality objective is 50.
Elsewhere, Golden is close at 47.7 while Castlegar is 20.9.
”Levels tend to be highest around busy roads and industrial operations,” the advisory reads.
Exposure is particularly a concern for individuals with chronic conditions such as asthma, COPD, heart disease, and diabetes; respiratory infections such as COVID-19, pregnant women, infants, and older adults. Persons with chronic underlying medical conditions or acute infections should postpone or reduce strenuous exercise until the advisory is lifted.
Anyone experiencing symptoms such as continuing eye or throat irritation, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, cough or wheezing, should follow the advice of their health care provider. Staying indoors helps to reduce particulate matter exposure.
“Sources of PM10 contributing to this air quality episode include road dust from the emission of winter traction material along busy and dry road surfaces,” the advisory reads.
These advisories frequent Vernon, and the city is looking at ways to combat them.
“The city has made a number of changes in recent years to reduce the amount of airborne particulate in the community,” said Christy Poirier, Vernon’s communications manager. “This includes changes to our winter sand to reduce fine particulate matter, proceeding with early spring sweeping opportunities (sweepers were out in January this year), and the recent purchase of a vacuum-style street sweeper to reduce dust.”
But because water is required for the operation of street sweepers, they can only be used when temperatures are above freezing.
“Full scale spring sweeping operation will commence once weather permits (typically in March) and will take approximately six weeks to complete using a combination of city and contract crews working around the clock,” Poirier said.
“City administration has also been working closely with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy to improve the air quality monitoring in our community so we can gain a better understanding of the issue.”