Residents urged to follow industry lead on emissions
Oakville residents should be breathing a little easier since the town’s air quality is apparently improving.
Oakville MPP Kevin Flynn announced last week that between 2004 and 2010, Oakville’s particulate matter (PM) 2.5 levels have dropped by 33 per cent.
Particulate matter 2.5 is an air pollutant largely made up of sulphate and nitrate particles, elemental and organic carbon and soil.
It has been associated with hospital admissions and several serious health effects, including premature death.
The figures showing their reduction in Oakville in recent years, come from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. The statistics also show PM 2.5 continuing to decline.
“Oakville’s air is doing very, very well compared to where it was,” said Flynn.
“I’m not suggesting for one minute that we don’t have some more work to do, but I think everybody should be proud. The Town, industry, the residents, everyone should be proud of how far we’ve come in a relatively short period of time.”
Flynn also discussed information taken each year by the Oakville air quality monitoring station, which records how many hours each year PM 2.5 levels exceed the national standard of 30 milligrams per cubic metre.
In 2003, the Oakville monitoring station recorded 275 hours when the national PM 2.5 standard was exceeded.
These numbers rose to a high of 371 hours in 2005, dropped to 161 hours in 2006, rose again to 211 hours in 2007, and then dropped drastically to 56 hours in 2008.
The PM 2.5 levels remained low in Oakville during the next few years, exceeding the national standard for only 27 hours in 2009, 41 hours in 2010, 29 hours in 2011 and eight hours in 2012, as of June 25.
“When you figure that we brought that down from eight or nine weeks a year to a third of a day, really, that’s quite a significant drop,” said Flynn.
“It tells me people are paying attention and it tells me, I think, we could take a look at setting a new standard for Ontario. We could take a look at reducing the standard because I think we are capable of meeting an even higher standard.”
Flynn said meeting this higher standard may be achievable because of the role industry has played in the reduction of these emissions.
Information unveiled by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment stated that Oakville’s industrial sector reduced its PM 2.5 emissions from 43 kilotons in 2001 to 18 kilotons in 2010.
Oakville’s transportation sector only saw a small reduction from 19 kilotons in 2001 to 15 kilotons in 2010.
The story was similar with the residential sector, which went from 25 kilotons in 2001 to 24 kilotons in 2010.
“Many local businesses committed years ago to continuous improvements in their air quality emissions,” said Wendy Rinella, Oakville Chamber of Commerce chair. “You can clearly see the benefits of those ongoing commitments in the Ministry’s latest report. This is good news for everyone in Oakville and something we’re proud of on behalf of our members.”
Flynn also spoke about Oakville’s improved industrial emissions stating the change comes from industries refining their processes to create less waste. These initiatives, Flynn said, were not only good for the environment, but probably saved the companies money through increased efficiency and throughput.
“We’ve caught the attention of industry here. They know the eyes of the community are on them and they know the Ministry of the Environment and the provincial government are looking at them very closely,” said Flynn.
“You can respond to this in two ways. You can either fight back and say, ‘We’re not breaking any laws’ or you can step up to the plate and see if you can actually do things better. In this case, these guys have stepped up to the plate in Oakville and deserve a lot of praise.”
As the Ministry of the Environment data shows residences to be the largest source of PM 2.5 emissions (as of 2010), Flynn is recommending residents do their part to bring these emissions down by not running their natural gas furnaces when they don’t need them.
Flynn said programmable thermostats are available through Oakville Hydro that will allow residents to turn the heat down and reduce their energy consumption while they are at work or away from home.
Programs are also available through the Ontario Power Authority, Flynn said, which allow residents to replace their furnace with a new more efficient one.
Having your furnace cleaned on an annual basis was also listed as a way of reducing PM 2.5 emissions.
While Flynn acknowledges some of Oakville’s air pollution does come from other sources, like the U.S., he remains adamant that reducing emissions locally is important in that it shows leadership.