Air Pollution

Air Pollution

Coastal communities of northern BC have been inundated with proposed industrial development such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) and oil refineries. Add to this, Rio Tinto Alcan's increased sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions (up to 42 tons per day) and a grim picture is painted for those suffering from cardiovascular disease or other breathing impairments such as asthma.

In early 2013, BC Ministry of Environment granted Rio Tinto a permit to increase sulphur dioxide emissions by up to 56% over current levels - up to 42 tonnes per day.  The permit increase allows the Kitimat SO2 emissions to be the highest of any aluminum smelter in Canada and of any industrial plant in BC.  SkeenaWild released a report defining how to improve and mitigate air quality impacts from this influx of SO2, other sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrous oxides (NOx), particulate matter, carbon dioxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other harmful polluntants from existing and proposed industrial development. A community like Kitimat BC, whose air sheds are already confined, would be unable to handle a massive influx of pollution at levels currently proposed. This poses serious risks to peoples health and the health of water, soils, fish and wildlife. The Canadian Medical Association estimates that approximately 21,000 Canadians die from air pollution reach year. According to experts, it's not just the volume of pollution that’s an issue, the geography and meteorology of a region are just as important. Some air sheds can vent pollution better than others and Kitimat is among the most constrained air sheds on the planet.

SO2 is a pollutant that impairs peoples' ability to breath and causes acid rain. The World Health Organization has linked air pollution to an increased risk of lung cancer, respiratory and heart diseases. RTA's own studies have concluded that there will be an increase in hospital visits because of increasing SO2 emissions. Sulphur dioxide has health impacts at any concentration. Over mere minutes, poor air quality increases the risk of asthmatic episodes and hospitalization, and in the longer term, it increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. 

The chemical also causes the acidification of soils, lakes and rivers. Local food growers have highlighted the potential impacts of soil acidification on food production in the area.

The technology to reduce SO2 is readily accessible, commonly used and affordable. We don't believe that the cost of aluminum smelting should be put on the backs of the citizens of Kitimat and Terrace. 

What we’re doing

SkeenaWild worked with community members in Kitimat and Terrace in initiating a new group – Kitimat Terrace Clean Air Coalition (KTCAC). This group has been helping raise the profile about the Rio Tinto Alcan's sulphur dioxide pollution, acid rain and health issues and new sources of pollution from proposed LNG and refineries in the airshed.

UNIFOR recently won its court case against the BC Environmental Appeal Board, who denied them the ability to participate in the Sulphur Dioxide pollution permitting hearings. Read the news article.

We are now working with KTCAC and the Centre for Environmental Law & Litigation in preparing for the new hearings. These hearing will focus on the health impacts of the increased SO2 emissions on the community and smelter workers.