A localized inversion was responsible for acrid smoke blanketing Kitimat this week.
Kitimat District Technical Services Manager Wayne Sussbauer said the smoke was generated by fires at the municipal landfill that were part of a controlled burn.
“The landfill accepts wood waste from the community and clean wood is collected in an area designated for this and burned,” said Sussbauer.
“The contractor providing the landfill services is required to periodically burn the clean wood to control the volume, which averages about six to seven times per year.”
He said clean wood that is accepted at the landfill can’t be resin-containing wood or treated wood, and must be free of any other contaminants such as plastic.
“A typical burn at the landfill could be three to five days depending on the volume of wood and the stoking that occurs during the process,” said Sussbauer. “Burning significantly reduces the volume of material that would otherwise be buried and significantly helps to extend the available space and life of our refuse site.”
He was referring in particular to the large amounts of clean wood, brush, trees and other wood brought to the landfill.
Sussbauer added that the district allows the contractor to burn under a permit granted by the Ministry of the Environment, which provides for emissions from burning which are subject to MOE regulations.
“The contractor is required to contact the fire department for a burning permit. He then monitors the MOE website which reports and predicts the regional venting index for a period of good venting conditions,” said Sussbauer.
The contractor then burns and monitors the conditions, and if the conditions change dramatically and create conditions that affect the community, he can be instructed to let the fire burn out, or in extreme conditions, extinguish the fire.
“This process is no different for any burning done in the community such as development land clearing,” said Sussbauer.
He added that “conditions seemed reasonable through Monday” but that the localized inversion prevented adequate venting of the smoke.
Kitimat Terrace Clean Air Coalition spokesperson Lis Stannus said while the smoke was very noticeable it hadn’t been serious enough to set off alarms.
“I checked Air Quality B.C. for the levels that register but they didn’t show as very high, although the smoke was visible,” said Stannus.
“We take pictures too but the usual response from government is that the air quality monitors don’t show anything concerning.”