Red Deer area exceeds air-quality limits; environment minister concerned

WATCH ABOVE: Questions are being raised about the quality of the air we breathe. Tom Vernon reports.

EDMONTON – The province says the Red Deer region in central Alberta has failed to maintain a federal standard for air quality.

Results from Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards show the area has exceeded the acceptable amount of particulate matter and ozone exposure.

Four other regions are approaching limits.

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips says Alberta is on track to have the worst air quality in Canada if something isn’t done.

“The elevated levels in Alberta are a result of emissions from industrial point sources, but also non-point sources like vehicles,” said Phillips.

The Red Deer air zone is now required to develop a response to reduce levels.

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The Wildrose said Thursday it wants the NDP to provide more information on the source and origin of the air quality information. The Official Opposition pointed out that Alberta’s Air Quality Health Index describes Red Deer’s air quality health risk as “low.”

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“Without a better explanation from the NDP, any new policy appears to be an overreaction,” said Wildrose Environment Critic Todd Loewen.

“We have conflicting data on the government’s own website and they have failed to identify pollution sources for the Red Deer data. It is clear we need to take a more balanced approach to this issue based on evidence and not ideology. Albertans will be rightfully dubious about claims that the Red Deer area has Alberta’s dirtiest air.”

Loewen also called on the government to provide comparisons to other provinces, identify sources for declines in air quality, and provide “common sense solutions.”

“Everyone wants clean air but it looks like the Environment Minister needs to do more homework before jumping ahead with new policies and regulations,” Loewen said.

Phillips said the four other zones – the lower Athabasca, upper Athabasca, North Saskatchewan and South Saskatchewan –  must develop plans to keep their levels from getting worse.

“I have heard from Albertans that they are worried about the impact of harmful emissions on the health of their families,” said Phillips. “We know, the science tells us, that air quality has a direct impact on human health and that’s of concern to us as a government.

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“We have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect the health of Albertans.”

It is the first year of annual reporting by provinces and territories.

With files from Global News. 

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