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Edmonton councillors look at how to protect citizens’ air quality

Churchill Square in Edmonton. Global News

The City of Edmonton is looking into finding ways to protect citizens from excessive fumes, dust and other airborne particulates, that are spewing out into the air because of an inconsiderate neighbour.

Karina Malloy says she can’t even open her windows – let alone go outside when the weather is nice – because she has to wait out a neighbour who runs his big truck, seemingly endlessly. She recently provided city councillors with a photo of a $10,000 fence she says was wrecked by billowing smoke.

“What’s surprising to me is if there are other people in this situation, why there isn’t something in place to protect the citizens,” she said on Monday after council’s community services committee agreed to track the worst of the worst of people who are behind air pollution, and find out what can be done about it.

Coun. Mike Nickel raised the issue because he gets a lot of complaints in ward 11.

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“We all have them,” he said after the motion was passed. “I’m not the only councillor that has this kind of problem where we have one neighbour polluting literally the other neighbour’s air quality.”

Nickel shook his head at the reluctance so far to do for air quality what the city does for noise with a bylaw. He said it should be simple to measure.

“I think they’re overthinking the whole argument,” Nickel said. “Simply put, there are health and safety code standards that we have in this country. There are very sophisticated tools to measure these sorts of things.

Nickel said he worried that other nuisance issues would be tagged on if the city decides to address air quality issues.

“You started getting the tag-ons at the end, the fire pits, the idling bylaw. I said, ‘No, no, no – stop that.’ All I’m talking about today is trying to deal with air particulates, fumes and dust issues inside your house so you can have breathable space.”

City manager Linda Cochrane suggested completing an analysis of nuisance behaviour, where there are repeated examples.

Nickel said he believes air quality issues could become a growing concern in the future.

“Let’s talk about cannabis,” he said. “Right now, I have a complaint from one constituent that says they’re sitting on their stoop and their neighbour is smoking pot.”

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Most dust, fume and other problems come from infill properties, Nickel said. He added LRT construction is also plays a role.

The promise to dig into this does give Malloy some hope.

“I’m still discouraged, but a little optimistic,” she said. “Now we have the doors open for discussion and I hope they’ll influence a bylaw that will protect neighbours.”

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