FAQs

General

I just moved to Trail and have children. What do I need to know?

Trail is a great place to live, work and raise a family. The community developed around one of the largest operating lead/zinc smelters. Because of this, there is lead in the dust (e.g. air and soil). Keeping indoor dust down, covering bare soil in yards and promoting handwashing are some of the best ways to reduce children’s exposure to lead. 

The Trail Area Health & Environment Program offers a variety of supports depending on the family needs, location, and age of children. This includes Healthy Family Healthy Home in-home visits for families with children three and under and expectant parents. There is also an annual voluntary blood lead testing clinic for children. This helps identify where more support is needed and/or potential exposure.

For any questions, text the public health nurse at 250-231-5945 or email programs@thep.ca.

What does it mean to live with metals in the soil?

  • For most people, the risks associated with metals in soil are low, particularly where soils are covered by grass or other materials; however, bare soils may increase exposure to metals and contribute to elevated lead levels in children.
  • There are a number of ways residents can minimize their exposure. These include:
    • Covering bare soil areas in your yard by improving lawn areas, mulching gardens or covering exposed areas with landscape fabric and rock;
    • Following good hygiene practices, including washing hands after playing outside and before eating;
    • Taking shoes off at the door, and having floor mats at entryways;
    • Vacuuming, wet dusting and mopping frequently; and
    • Hosing off decks and patios and wiping down outdoor play equipment and furniture.
  • For more information and tips on avoiding exposure to metals, visit us online at www.thep.ca.

Are unpaved alleys in Trail a source of lead?

Unpaved alleys in Trail were identified as a potential source of lead by the Trail Lead Task Force. They recommended annual dust suppressant application to reduce dusting, which has been applied annually since 1993. The City also completes annual monitoring and maintenance of unpaved alleys including grading and gravel placement.

A recent study was conducted in seven unpaved alleys in Trail to compare current soil and dust levels with historical data. Results showed that lead levels in alleys are lower than historical levels and below the levels where remediation is prioritized through the Soil Management Program.

Residents with concerns regarding dusty conditions in adjacent unpaved alleys can report their concerns to the City’s Grounds & Roads Superintendent.

What is THEC / THEP?

THEC is the acronym for the Trail Area Health & Environment Committee, a select committee of the City of Trail. THEC is a partnership between government, industry, the City of Trail and community. For more than 30 years, THEC has been working together to reduce exposure to lead and other smelter metals in the community with a focus on families and children.

THEC oversees programs on the ground undertaken by the partners. 

The Trail Area Health & Environment Programs are:

  • Air Quality: smelter emissions reductions, dust control and air monitoring
  • Family Heath: in-home visits, children’s lead testing clinics and support, education
  • Home & Garden: in-home visits, lead safe renovation support, garden and yard soil testing and improvements
  • Property Development: risk management guidelines and support
  • Parks: community greening

How is my local government involved?

The Mayor of Trail chairs the Trail Area Health & Environment Committee, and there is representation on the committee from Warfield, RDKB Areas A and B. All local governments in the Lower Columbia are invited to meetings of the Trail Area Health & Environment Committee.

How can I get more involved?

Community involvement is a long-standing commitment of THEC. There are up to six spaces on the committee available for community members and we are currently seeking additional community representation. Meetings are held five times a year in Trail (or online) and are open to the public. If joining the committee interests you, please send details about yourself and why you would like to be involved to programs@thep.ca.  

In addition, THEC has working groups that provide input into programs and communication which welcome community representation. 

As a community member you are invited to take part in the free programs offered by the Trail Area Health & Environment Program. The program also regularly surveys and consults the community for feedback on work taking place.  Your participation is valued. 

Family Health

What is the Healthy Families Healthy Homes program?

The Healthy Families Healthy Homes Program (HFHH) is an in-home visitation, health promotion program targeting expectant families and families with children aged 0-3 years in Trail, Casino, Oasis, Rivervale, Waneta and Warfield. This is a time when children are more at risk of exposure to lead in their home environment as they are beginning to crawl, explore their world and put objects and hands in their mouths.

Each family receives two visits, one from an Interior Health Public Health RN (the Healthy Families visit) and one from a trained professional at the H&G Program. Visits focus on prevention of lead exposure and strengthening the children’s healthy development through education, awareness and supplies to help parents take action immediately.

What are the concerns about lead?

Most lead enters the body through the mouth via eating, drinking or breathing in dust containing lead. Young children are at a higher risk for lead exposure and its effects because:

  • They often put their hands and objects in their mouths. 
  • They sometimes swallow non-food items. 
  • Their bodies absorb lead at a higher rate. 
  • Their brains are developing quickly. 

There is no known safe level of lead exposure and no known safe blood lead concentration. Lead is most harmful to children younger than age 6 (especially those younger than age 3). Lead exposure can have detrimental effects on early childhood development and children’s future outcomes. A pregnant woman who is exposed to lead can pass it to her baby through the mother’s breast milk. 

Still, there are actions you can take to help reduce your family’s exposure to lead. 

Are there other metals in Trail, besides lead, that residents should be aware of?

Risks from metals other than lead have been studied in Trail through human health risk assessment. The most recent study concluded that the risk from metals other than lead is very low to negligible, and that lead reduction should continue to be the main focus for THEP programs.

Ongoing emissions reductions, along with the soil management activities, is further reducing levels of metals in the Trail environment.  

Trail area health statistics have been reviewed by the BC Cancer Agency and Ministry of Health. They have not found evidence of increased rates of disease due to metals in the environment.  

Is it safe for my family to live in Trail?

Yes. Trail is a great place to live, work and raise a family. There are lots of positive things happening in Trail and the Trail Area Health & Environment Program (THEP) proactively supports families to have a safe and active lifestyle here. 

Living next door to the smelter has created unique challenges in terms of minimizing exposure to lead in house dust and soil, mainly caused by historical emissions. There have been major air quality improvements and we are actively working on historical emissions (such as in the soil). 

THEP actively supports healthy child development through a variety of programs. This includes our Healthy Family Healthy Homes program which includes two home visits from a nurse and home specialist to share information and provide supports to minimize exposure to metals.

Families with children and expectant families, please call or text the public health nurse with any questions: 250-231-5945.

What can I do to keep my family healthy?

There are many things you can do to help reduce exposure and ingestion of lead by your child. The most effective way is to keep indoor dust down. It’s important to connect (or reconnect) with the public health nurse and home garden representative for a home visit to look more closely at nutrition, diet and the home and yard environment. They will also connect with you community resources and groups that support early childhood development. They can also provide useful supplies to keep dust down in the home environment such as a vacuum (or replacement bags), dust buster kits, hand soap, and links to lead safe renovation supplies.

Families with children under 12 months are offered a free Healthy Family home visit. A Public Health nurse will meet with parents to answer their questions and show simple ways to promote children’s health and wellbeing, and reduce lead exposure. Young children in Trail, Casino, Oasis, Rivervale, Waneta and Warfield are invited to have their blood lead levels tested each year starting from the age of 6 months to 36 months. 

All programs are voluntary.

What should I do if I want to reduce dust in my home?

Damp mop bare floors and damp wipe window sills, furniture, benches, toys, baseboards and other surfaces that children touch in order not to stir up dust.  Dry sweeping is not recommended as it lifts dust into the air only to have some of it settle back down again.  

Areas where food is prepared or eaten, and floors or surfaces where babies or toddlers spend lots of time should always be kept clean.

For carpeted floors, use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter or ducted vacuum system.  These vacuums filter fine dust particles and prevent dust from recirculating in the room. 

Please note housecleaning doesn’t replace the need for good family hygiene and nutrition.  Always wash your hands and children’s hands, especially before eating and after playing outdoors.  Leave outside shoes at the door. Renovate safely, sealing off the area of work. Eat regular meals high in calcium, Vitamin C, and iron.

Sign up online for a Healthy Family Healthy Home visit to learn more. 

What should I do if I want to get my child’s blood lead level tested?

Every year, our program offers free voluntary testing of blood lead for children from the age of 6-36 months living in Trail, Casino, Oasis, Rivervale, Waneta and Warfield. Children up to the age of 5 years old from other Lower Columbia communities are welcome to attend. Clinics are typically held in September with a follow up clinic in February.

Please contact the Interior Health Public Health Nurse for details. 

Call 250-364-6223 or Text 250-231-5945

Is drinking water a source of lead exposure in Trail?

Lead in drinking water is not considered a source of lead exposure in the City of Trail.  The City’s drinking water is tested regularly at its two sources and confirmed to meet all the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality for metals (including lead), chemicals and other potential risks to water quality.  The City’s drinking water is believed to be at low risk of leaching lead from the distribution system. This is supported by water quality monitoring and testing at a number of locations throughout the city’s drinking water system. For more information, contact info@trail.ca

If you have concerns about lead pipes in your home, you can have your water tested.  Click this link for labs in BC approved by the Provincial Health Officer for drinking water. 

HealthLinkBC provides additional information on Lead in Drinking Water including how you can protect yourself and family (https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthlinkbc-files/lead-drinking-water).

Finally, if you don’t know what kind of pipes you have, this is a helpful online tool to test whether you are likely to have lead water pipes: https://apps.npr.org/find-lead-pipes-in-your-home/en/#intro

 Lead Safe Renovation

What should I do if I want to renovate my home?

Please contact the Community Program Office at 1319 Bay Avenue or (250) 368-3256 for information on the Lead Safe Renovation Program supports and information available to you.  

The Lead Safe Renovation Program applies to all pre-1976 homes anywhere in the Lower Columbia.

Resources are also available online under the Lead Safe Renovation program tab.

What should I do if I am a building contractor or professional home renovator?

Check out the Contractor section on this website.  For more information, or to become a Trail Area Lead Safe Contractor, please contact the Community Program Office at 1319 Bay Ave. or (250) 368-3256.

Soil Management Program

What is the Soil Management Program?

  • The soil management program includes soil testing and, in qualifying yards, replacement of soil or improvements to ground cover on a prioritized basis.
  • Given the large number of households in these areas, assessments are prioritized based on the presence of children under 12 within areas that are known to have the highest levels of lead in the soil, such as those neighbourhoods closest to the operation.
  • This program has been in place since 2007 and was expanded in 2019.
  • The program is overseen by the Trail Area Health and Environment Committee, a sub-committee of the City of Trail, with government, community and industry members.
  • Teck is the responsible party for annual Soil Management Plans under the direction of the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change as per the Contaminated Sites Regulation of the Environmental Management Act.

Why is a soil management plan necessary?

  • Metallurgical facilities have been operating in Trail for well over a century. Historical emissions from these facilities have resulted in the addition of metals, including lead, into the soil in the surrounding area. As a result, soil in the Trail area is likely to have metals above natural background levels and regulatory standards.
  • Teck is the responsible party for the Soil Management Plan under the direction of the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy as per the Contaminated Sites Regulation of the Environmental Management Act.
  • Teck is working with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy to develop and seek approval for a long-term soil management plan called a Wide Area Remediation Plan. Once that plan is drafted, a full public consultation will take place prior to approval and implementation. Annual Soil Management Plans are an interim step focused on highest risk properties.
  • The Wide Area Remediation Plan will continue to build on the work we have been doing to address historical soil impacts in Trail and the surrounding area.
  • In recent years, major improvements have been made to lower metal emissions from Teck Trail Operations, resulting in improved air quality. This means that Teck is not adding as many metals such as lead into the soil. We can now focus more on addressing the historical impacts to soil from past emissions.

How do you plan to address lead in the soil?

  • Measures to manage exposure to lead and other metals in the soil may include the replacement of soil in yards and/or gardens in qualifying yards. In other cases, improvements to ground cover, such as planting grass, may be made as an interim measure.
  • Soil testing is the first step. Our programs are voluntary so it is your choice if you would like your soil to be tested.

Is it safe to eat vegetables grown in Trail?

People have been growing vegetables in Trail for more than a century. Home grown fruit and vegetables offer many benefits to your family, and especially young children. A study conducted in 2019-2020 shows that even at low levels, metals in soil and dust may end up in vegetables grown in Trail.

There are many things you can do to minimize the potential exposure to metals from home grown fruit and vegetables. 

  • Always wash fruits and vegetables before eating them. 
  • Choose what you grow: 
    • The fruit parts of plants (e.g. tomatoes, cucumbers, berries, beans, etc.) have shown they absorb the lowest amount of metals. 
    • Leafy greens have the highest level of metals. Washing them gets rid of some, but not all of it.
    • Peel root vegetables before eating.
  • Amend your soil to help reduce metal uptake. This may include keeping your pH close to neutral, adding organic matter and considering phosphate fertilizer.

For more information or to request soil testing in your garden, contact the Community Program Office: programs@thep.ca

Can you tell me more about your prioritization criteria?

  • Soil testing is offered to all interested households with priority in areas that are known to have the highest lead levels in the soil, such as those closest to the operation. Priority is also given to households that have children under 12.
  • Following soil testing, three criteria are used to determine priorities for soil management: the presence of children under 12 years of age, the presence of ground cover, and lead levels in soil.

How is the presence of children defined?

In the annual Soil Management Plans, priority will be given to properties where children under 12 live, or visit regularly. This would include where children are present two or more days each week for periods of three hours or more, or a total of 60 hours or more each year.

What are the regulatory standards that this plan is based on?

  • Annual Soil Management Plans are interim plans, conducted under the direction of the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change as per the Contaminated Sites Regulation of the Environmental Management Act.
  • Teck is working with the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Strategy to develop and seek approval for a long-term soil management plan, called a Wide Area Remediation Plan. Once that plan is drafted a full public consultation will take place prior to approval and implementation.
  • The Wide Area Remediation Plan will continue to build on the work we have been doing to address historical soil impacts in Trail and the surrounding area.

Why are you looking at a wider area than in the past?

  • The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy has defined an area for a future Wide Area Remediation Plan called the Teck, Trail Environmental Management Area (EMA). An EMA is a specific area that contains specified contaminants from one specific source, covers a larger geographic area and parcels within the site would likely be contaminated with one or more of the specified contaminants. For more information, please see the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Fact Sheet on Wide Area Sites.
  • The EMA is being used as the subject area for the annual Soil Management Plans and includes Trail, Rivervale, Warfield, Montrose, south Castlegar, areas of RDKB Area A and B, areas of RDCK Area J and the edges of Rossland.
  • As would be expected, metal levels in soil are higher closer to the operation, and decline to near natural background concentrations toward periphery areas. As such, properties in those periphery areas may require no action.
  • Given the large number of properties in the area, our immediate focus will continue to be on those properties that are expected to have higher levels of metals in the soil, such as those nearest the smelter.

Does this just apply to residential properties or are playgrounds, daycares and schools also included?

  • Soil assessment and prioritized soil management also applies to playgrounds, daycares and schools.
  • Generally speaking, ground cover is very good in parks and playgrounds. If you notice poor ground cover at parks or playgrounds please contact the City of Trail and/or the THEP Community Program Office.
  • Parks and playgrounds in the wider Trail area are included in the soil assessment testing, and this data is used to identify any work required.

Why are you now focusing on properties with children up to 12 years old?

  • The prioritization of children under 12 allows us to focus on the age group that is the most likely to be exposed to metals in soil. Older children in this age group have a higher tolerance to exposure, while younger children under 6 years of age have lower tolerance to exposure. Our prioritization approach reflects these tolerance levels.
  • It is important to note that our soil management program is just one aspect of the Trail Area Health and Environment Program. Other existing components of the program will continue, including Healthy Homes and Family Health, focusing on families with children up to 3 years old, and Lead Safe Renovation for do-it-yourself renovators.

When did the expanded soil management program begin?

  • Expansion began in 2019 and close to 300 properties had their soil tested and 550 had their ground cover evaluated.
  • In 2019, 102 properties received work including 11 properties receiving yard improvements and 91 yards were fully remediated (compared to 58 properties in 2018).
  • In 2020, a similar number of properties will receive work as compared to 2019.

Who is paying for soil management?

  • There is no cost to the landowner for this work to be undertaken. All soil assessment and improvement work is coordinated and paid for by the Trail Area Health and Environment Program, through funding provided by Teck.
  • The program is overseen by the Trail Area Health and Environment Committee, a sub-committee of the City of Trail, with government, community and industry members.
  • Teck is the responsible party for the Soil Management Program under the direction of the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change as per the Contaminated Sites Regulation of the Environmental Management Act.
  • Teck Metals has invested approximately $5 million toward the soil management program this year alone as part of its continued commitment to healthy homes and gardens in the Trail area.
  • It is expected that these programs will continue for many years to come.

What should I do if I want my garden soil tested?

  • Sign up online to have your soil tested.
  • If you have a vegetable garden, you can also sign up online. Vegetable gardens remain within our priority focus soil testing and remediation.

Air Quality Program Pb (lead)

What is Lead (Pb)?

Lead (Pb) is a naturally occurring element found in small amounts in the earth’s crust. You can find lead in various products such as vehicle batteries, radiation protection and soundproofing.

How does Pb affect my health?

Lead exposure can have detrimental effects on early childhood development and children’s future outcomes. Lead is most harmful to children younger than age 6 and especially those younger than age 3. A pregnant woman who is exposed to lead can pass it to her baby. Lead can also be passed to a baby through the mother’s breast milk. There is no known safe level of lead exposure. Visit thep.ca to learn about actions you can take to help reduce your family’s exposure to lead.

Why do we have Pb in Trail?

In addition to environmental lead contributions from historical use of products such as lead-based paint and leaded gasoline, Trail is home to one of the world’s largest lead and zinc smelting and refining facilities, in operation for over one hundred years. While significant operational improvements have been made to reduce emissions from process stacks and fugitive sources (buildings, stockpiles and roadways), lead and other metals in dust have been dispersed in the Trail area.

Continuous improvement is a key component of Teck Trail Operations Environmental Management System (ISO14001) and emissions reduction activities continue.

Who is at highest risk of Pb exposure?

Young children are at highest risk of Pb exposure and its effects because:

  • They often put their hands and objects in their mouths.
  • They sometimes swallow non-food items.
  • Their bodies absorb lead at a higher rate.
  • Their brains are developing quickly.

Pregnant women exposed to lead can pass it to the baby. Lead can also be passed to a baby through the mother’s breast milk.

What actions can I take to reduce my family’s exposure to Pb in dust?

Primary prevention is the most effective way to prevent lead exposure.

Actions you can take to reduce the risk of lead exposure include:

  1. Wash your hands and your children’s hands especially before eating and after playing outdoors.
  2. Eat foods that have enough iron and other vitamins and minerals. A person who eats a balanced, nutritious diet may absorb less lead. Eat at the table.
  3. Keep your floors dust-free by vacuuming and damp-mopping often. Leave outside shoes at the door. Damp dust frequently, especially window ledges and countertops.
  4. Keep outdoor play areas clean. Cover the sandbox when you are finished playing. Hose off patios, play equipment, and driveways often. Play on the grass and cover bare soil areas.
  5. Renovate safely. Seal off the area of work, and clean well when complete. Keep children and pregnant women away if possible.

Secondary prevention including blood lead testing and follow-up minimizes further exposure. Trail offers an annual voluntary blood lead testing clinic for children under five years old.

What are the Pb in air levels in Trail?

As shown in the following chart, lead in air levels have fallen dramatically over the years and in 2020 lead in ambient air averaged 0.07 micrograms per cubic metre, the lowest level to date.

Figure 1 Annual Average Lead in Community Air 1990-2020.

In addition, summary reports are provided at the bi-monthly public Trail Area Health & Environment Committee (THEC) meetings. Meeting minutes are available online.

What are the applicable standards for Pb in air?

Currently, the Federal and BC Provincial governments do not have ambient air quality objectives or standards for lead.  However, it is reasonable to rely on standards from other jurisdictions when this is the case and the US EPA has a standard of 0.15 micrograms per cubic metre lead in total suspended particulate matter as a 3-month average. Pb in air levels measured at Butler Park and Birchbank met the US EPA standard of 0.15 ug/m3 on a 3-month average throughout 2020.

There is no known safe level of lead exposure. The Trail Area Health & Environment Committee (THEC) has a goal of continuous reduction of lead in the community and the partners focus on efforts to achieve this.

Where is Pb in air monitored?

Teck conducts the following monitoring in the community: 

  • Measures of lead, arsenic and other particles in the air are taken at two testing locations in the Lower Columbia: Butler Park and Birchbank. Readings are taken over 24-hour periods.

This information is collected and analyzed by Teck’s environment staff and reported to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy as well as the Trail Area Health & Environment Committee (THEC). THEC meetings are open to the public, occur five times per year, and include an air quality report with the most current data available.

In addition to the 24-hour samples collected at Butler Park and Birchbank, Teck also conducts the following monitoring:

  • Every hour, analyzers measure metals concentrations at Butler Park and Duncan Flats and transmit readings directly to Trail Operations. Trail Operations immediately responds to any abnormal increase. See question 8 for how these data are used.
  • Dustfall measurements are collected on a monthly basis at Birchbank, Downtown Trail, Columbia Avenue, Columbia Gardens, Tadanac, Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital, Glenmerry, Oasis, Stoney Creek, Waneta and Warfield. These measurements help understand changes in dust settling in the community over time. 

How does Teck Trail Operations use data to manage Pb levels in air in Trail?

Every hour, analyzers measure metals concentrations at Butler Park and Duncan Flats. Near real-time data is transmitted to Teck Trail Operations’ process control systems. If Pb levels begin to rise, plants at Teck Trail Operations are automatically notified so that actions can be taken to reduce Pb emissions.

What is Teck doing to reduce Pb emissions?

Over the past 30 years, there have been significant improvements in community air quality and over $1.7 billion has been invested in a modernization program to improve our operational and environmental performance at Teck Trail Operations. Since the installation of the KIVCET Smelter in 1997 and subsequent operations improvements at Teck Trail Operations, there has been a 99.5% reduction in stack lead emissions.

The Air Quality Program, one of five programs overseen by the Trail Area Health & Environment Committee, is managed by Teck Trail Operations, and continues to reduce lead in the environment through the comprehensive Fugitive Dust Reduction Program.

Fugitive dust reduction efforts include:

  • construction of the Smelter Recycle Building, close to the size of two Canadian football fields, in 2016 to enclose mixing and storage of process feed materials;
  • installation of a ten-metre high wind fence reducing dusting where we mix feeds; 
  • installation of wheel washes and truck washes onsite help reduce tracking of materials onto roads;
  • onsite street cleaning, via street sweepers and water trucks, provide a year-round program of roadway sweeping and flushing; and,
  • identification and reduction of fugitive dust sources from work activities in our operating plants. 

Who regulates Teck’s Pb emissions?

Teck operates under air quality permits issued by the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (ENV).

How does Teck share air quality information locally?

Teck shares summary information at the bi-monthly Trail Area Health & Environment Committee (THEC) meetings which are open to the public. All air quality reports are also published online at thep.ca.  Lastly, Teck participates in the THEC Air Quality Working Group to share more detailed information on air quality management at Teck and in the community.

If I have a concern about air quality or health, who do I contact?

Residents who have concerns about air quality are encouraged to call the Teck Community and Environment Feedback line at (250) 364-4817, a phone line answered 24 hours a day. 

If you have a health concern specific to lead exposure, please contact THEP Family Health Services at the Kiro Wellness Centre 250-364-5945 or text your public health nurse 250-231-5945.

Air Quality Program SO2 (sulphur dioxide)

What is sulphur dioxide (SO2)?

SO2 is a colourless, reactive gas. At higher concentrations it can have a strong odour. It is produced during the combustion of sulphur-containing fuels and industrial operations involving sulphur-containing materials. Major sources of SO2 in BC include the upstream oil and gas industry, metal smelting facilities, pulp / paper mills and marine operations (in the Lower Mainland area). Once released, one possibility is that SO2 can react with other compounds in the air to form fine particulate matter (small solid or liquid particles suspended in air).

Why do we have SO2 in Trail?

SO2 is emitted by Teck Trail Operations as a by-product of processing mine concentrates, which contain sulphur, into metal and chemical products. With environmental improvements, SO2 emissions continue to decline. Teck Trail Operations currently captures more than 99% of the sulphur and converts it to by-products, such as fertilizer and sulphuric acid. About 1% leaves the operation through emissions to air. Sulphur capture at Teck Trail Operations is similar to what you might find at a brand-new smelter. However, the dispersion of air emissions from the smelter is constrained due to the location of the smelter, weather and the surrounding topography. SO2 levels in Trail are not static and fluctuate throughout the day, month and year. See FAQ 7 and 8 for more information on SO2 levels.

How does SO2 affect my health?

Short-term exposures to elevated SO2 levels can cause the air passages in the lungs to constrict or tighten, leading to breathing difficulties and tightening in the chest. Symptoms may include constriction or tightening of the airways in the lungs, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. It may also irritate the nasal passage, throat and eyes. Those most sensitive to the effects of SO2 include persons with chronic respiratory disease, especially persons with asthma. Symptoms may worsen during vigorous exercise or hard physical labour. See FAQ 7 and 8 for more information on SO2 levels.

What are the long-term risks of SO2 exposure?

Long-term exposure to the particles produced by the reaction of SO2 with other compounds in the air may also affect your health. These particles penetrate deeply into the lungs. This can cause irritation and inflammation that can damage the lining of the lungs and affect other parts of the body. Particles can worsen existing heart and respiratory disease, including emphysema and bronchitis. Because of this, children who live in areas with elevated sulphur dioxide concentrations may develop more breathing problems as they get older.

How do I know if I am sensitive to SO2?

Some people, particularly those with respiratory conditions, may be more sensitive to SO2 exposure. Sensitivities may result in symptoms such as irritation of the eyes and respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Who is at the highest risk of SO2 exposure?

Workers in industrial facilities where SO2 is used or is a by-product of industrial processes have the greatest exposure. People who live near these industries and other point sources can also be exposed to higher levels of SO2. See FAQ 7 and 8 for more information on SO2 levels.

What actions can I take to reduce potential health effects of SO2?

When SO2 concentrations are elevated, consider reducing or rescheduling activities outdoors, remaining indoors, and reducing indoor sources of SO2 including tobacco smoke and unvented gas stoves. Persons with asthma should follow a management plan developed with their health care provider. If you are having trouble breathing, have chest pain or discomfort, or a severe cough, contact your health care provider or emergency department. See HealthLinkBC for a summary of health recommendations.

The SO2 levels and health guidance in the table below are based on Health Canada’s 2016 Human Health Risk Assessment for Sulphur Dioxide. For more information on the levels experienced in Trail, see FAQ 8.

SO2 LevelsConsider taking the following action at these levels of SO2
0-35 ppbNone
36-184 ppbPersons with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma should consider reducing or rescheduling strenuous outdoor activities if experiencing symptoms. No effects are expected for the general population.
185+ ppbPersons with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma should reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors. Others, especially children and the elderly should also consider avoiding outdoor physical exertion.

What are the SO2 levels in Trail?

Actual ambient SO2 concentrations in Trail fluctuate throughout the day, month and year.

This chart calculates the total hours of SO2 measured in community air (by monitoring station) in 2020. For actions to take at different levels, see FAQ 7.

StationSO2 Levels ppbHours / year*% Time *
Birchbank Golf Course0-35760497.4
36-1842002.6
185+00
Trail Butler Park0-35805096.7
36-1842693.2
185+6*0.1
Trail Columbia Gardens Airport0-35835499.7
36-184230.3
185+00
Warfield Elementary0-35780193.9
36-1844956
185+10*0.1
*In 2020 Birchbank Golf Course monitored 89% of the year, and the remaining three stations monitored 95% of the year.
**In 2020, all hours that measured above 185 occurred between 7am-11am.

Although levels fluctuate, monitoring data from recent years exceed the benchmarks for ambient air quality set by the Provincial and Federal governments that came into effect in 2020.

Find current and historical data online at: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/bcairquality/readings/find-stations-map-SO2.html

Where is SO2 monitored in Trail?

SO2 is monitored by Teck at four locations throughout Trail and the surrounding areas – Birchbank, Butler Park, Columbia Gardens and Warfield. These stations operate continuously, with near real-time data publicly available. SO2 levels fluctuate throughout the day, month and year. Find current and historical levels online at: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/bcairquality/readings/find-stations-map-SO2.html

What is Teck doing to reduce SO2 emissions?

Over the past 30 years, over $1.7 billion has been invested in a modernization program to improve the operational and environmental performance at Teck Trail Operations resulting in significant improvements in community air quality.

Teck Trail Operations currently captures more than 99% of the sulphur contained in feed and meets the highest standard for sulphur capture for base metal smelters across Canada.

Teck Trail Operations has made a 25% reduction in emissions in the last ten years, accomplished through the installation of two new state of the art Acid Plants and operational changes. Teck Trail Operations continues to drive improvements and is currently advancing capital projects to achieve further reductions by 2023. 

In addition to SO2 emissions reduction initiatives, Teck Trail Operations uses near real-time data to manage SO2 (see FAQ 11 for details).

How does Teck Trail Operations use data to manage SO2 levels in Trail?

In addition to reducing emissions, near real-time data is transmitted to Teck Trail Operations’ process control systems. If SO2 levels begin to rise (such as during a temperature inversion or during periods of higher emissions), plants at Teck Trail Operations are automatically notified so that actions can be taken to further reduce SO2 at the source and in the community.

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and Teck Trail have the ultimate goal of achievement of the Provincial and Federal benchmarks.

Who regulates Teck with respect to SO2?

Teck Trail Operations operates under permits established by the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (ENV).

What are the applicable standards for SO2?

Air quality is managed to protect the environment and human health relative to BC’s Air Quality Objectives (AQOs) and the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS). For SO2, BC AQO are the same as the CAAQS; more information about these standards can be found at: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/air-land-water/air/reports-pub/fs_so2_caaqs.pdf

BC uses these benchmarks to guide regulatory decisions, including permitting of discharges to air, to assess air quality, issue public advisories, aid regulatory development and support long-term air management strategies.

If I have a concern about air quality or health, who do I contact?

Residents who have concerns about air quality are encouraged to call the Teck Community and Environment Feedback line at (250) 364-4817, a phone line answered 24 hours a day.  If you have health concerns, please contact your family doctor.