Clear the air

Web Lead

To the editor:

The following is an open letter to the Honorable Mary Polock, B.C.Minister of Environment,

Not if. When. We are writing this letter to serve as evidence so that when it DOES happen, liability can be determined.

Burning grain stubble in Idaho fields when conditions are such that a wildfire is likely to be impossible to contain should one ignite, is nonsensical. Throwing a cigarette out of a vehicle window in B.C. can result in a serious fine and if it ignites a fire, liability.

Yet lighting thousands of acres on fire rather than tilling it back into the ground, negatively impacting air quality and peoples’ health as well as incurring risk of wildfire, is considered unlikely in Idaho. Why? Because it is cheaper to burn. 3500 acres (over 1400 hectares) are burned annually over Spring and Fall months between Bonners Ferry, Idaho and Creston B.C. over a distance of 40 miles (64 kilometers).

Idaho grain growers get the profit, while often, we get the bad air quality and the risk of wildfire.   I have been involved in this issue for over 20 years and for two of those years, I have served on the Crop Residue Burn Advisory Committee for the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality as a volunteer and attended meetings in Boise, Idaho. I will acknowledge that some improvement over time of burning practises has lessened smokey outcomes for Creston, but this year’s burning, when everything is so dry, is ludicrous.

In addition, the B.C. Ministry of Environment has left us here in Creston without a particle monitor for a second burn season. The excuse is that they need to fill the vacancy of a monitor technician who can service and maintain the equipment in Creston and in other Kootenay communities. We have had our conservation staffing cut back deplorably and now we have no active monitoring equipment as well. When the public goes online to the B.C. Air Quality website to acquire information for Creston, none exists.

We have a B.C. election coming up in Spring 2017 and the public needs to know what is happening, and what is not.

Pat Martin, CASM