An air-quality analysis at Cheakamus Crossing has shown pollution levels near a controversial asphalt plant have remained far below limits set by the Ministry of Environment. But despite the good news the RMOW will not reverse its wish to see the plant relocated farther from residential areas.
“We continue to be interested in seeing the plant relocated out of the neighbourhood — there’s no question about that,” said Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. “It’s incompatible to have a heavy industrial use immediately adjacent to a neighbourhood.”
The current asphalt procurement policy at municipal hall stipulates that all asphalt used for municipal purposes must be made three kilometres away from a residential neighbourhood. Council made that rule in 2012 after other attempts to move the plan failed, and began purchasing asphalt for a higher price from Squamish.
The RMOW installed the air-quality monitoring station in September of 2010 to address neighbourhood concerns over potential pollution drifting from Alpine Paving a few hundred metres away. The device measured for particulates 2.5 microns and smaller, which the reports authors, Levelton Consultants, said rarely occur naturally but often result from combustion, as would occur at an asphalt plant.
The report shows average pollution levels in the past two years peaked at only 67.5 per cent of allowable levels, or 5.4 ug/m3 out of an allowable 8.0.
The asphalt plant had been operating at its current site for 20 years when the 2010 Olympic athletes’ village was built in the area, and later sold off as residential properties in the new neighbourhood of Cheamus Crossing.
A stipulation in the buyers’ disclosure documents identified the presence of the asphalt plant, but Wilhelm-Morden said she believes buyers were told by the municipal staff of the time they were in discussion with the plant owners to relocate it.
“The people who bought into the neighbourhood were under the impression that … it would be moved,” she said.
Since then, homeowners have complained of the plant’s noise, odours and smoke, for which the air quality survey was ordered due to health concerns.
The plant’s owner, Frank Silveri, said in the past the smoke at issue is actually steam, but last year he installed a new $2 million system to reduce emissions. He could not be reached for comment.
The Ministry of Environment established two Ambient Air Quality Objectives (AAQO) by which communities can gauge the level of air pollution in their area. On a 24-hour basis it calls for no more than 25 ug/m3 per day. Cheakamus Crossing registered on average just 10 ug/m3 in 2011 and 12.9 in 2012. On the scale of annual averages, for the same years, 5 and 5.4 ug/m3 were registered respectfully, well below the limit of 8.0 ug/m3.
The ministry believes spikes in 2012 were due to smoke and haze caused by wildfires in Asia.