Hanneke Brooymans, Edmonton Journal, October 4, 2006
The Dow Chemical Company hydro carbon production facility in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta is seen against an August sunset. A study has found airborne pollutants in the community exceeded guidelines 10 per cent of the days studied over a 19-month period. Fort Saskatchewan has more than thirty major industrial facilities. Photograph: Journal file photo
The level of pollutants in the air at Fort Saskatchewan exceeded guidelines at least 10 per cent of the time during a 19-month air-quality study.
The study found out of the 95 days that air quality was sampled, 13 days showed elevated levels of vinyl chloride, a known human carcinogen. Another 10 days showed elevated concentrations of 1,2-dichloroethane, a probable human carcinogen.
Despite the results, a Capital Health statement released along with the report today says there is no reason for concern.
“Based upon reported results, there does not appear to be any reason for public health concern at this time,” the statement says.
The health authority added that the industrial plants responsible for vinyl chloride emissions were closed as of June, 2006. The industrial plant responsible for 1,2-dichloroethane emissions is reported to be closing in November, 2006.
There was no mention of how long these types and concentrations of emissions could have been occurring in the area.
The study was a co-operative effort between the Fort Air Partnership, a local group that monitors air quality in the region, and Environment Canada.
Five monitoring stations were scattered throughout the Fort Saskatchewan area, with an additional one placed in Elk Island National Park.
The goal of the study was to check on the concentration of volatile organic compounds. An organic compound is a carbon-based molecule that is bonded to other elements such as hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, chlorine, fluorine and/or bromine, the study explains. Many organic compounds, both naturally and human-made, exist in the atmosphere. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic compounds that easily form vapors under normal pressures and temperatures. Some VOCs can present hazardous effects on plants, animals and humans.
The Fort Saskatchewan area has a high concentration of more than 30 major industrial facilities, making it a good subject for this study.
One table in the study showed that in eight months of the year, the monitoring station closest to the city of Fort Saskatchewan had the highest average concentration of volatile organic compounds. This station sits on the city’s northern boundary.
This station also recorded the highest concentration of VOCs measured throughout the study. The total measured VOC concentrations between Sept. 12, 2004, and March 31, 2006, ranged between 11 and 800 micrograms per cubic metre.
Further investigation showed that the high concentration coincided with a planned flaring and turn-around in operations at a natural gas liquids fractionation facility in the area.
Anyone interested in learning more about this study and air quality in the area can attend a meeting tonight at the Lamont Recreation Centre Meeting Room. There will also be a meeting Thursday evening at the Redwater and District Pioneer Club.
Each event will begin at 7 p.m. with a half-hour presentation by the Fort Air Partnership followed by time for questions and discussion before wrapping up at 8:30 p.m.