Air Quality Program
Reducing lead and other metals in our community.
The program aim is to prevent children’s exposure to lead and reduce children’s blood lead levels on a continuous improvement basis. Although young children are mainly exposed to lead through hand-to-mouth activity rather than breathing, much of the lead in dust where they live and play comes from ongoing smelter emissions. Reducing emissions makes the biggest contribution to improving air quality and reducing people’s exposure to lead in the community. The Air Quality Program focuses on reducing lead and other metals in our community through:
Emissions reductions from Teck Trail Operations
Dust control in the community
Air quality monitoring and reporting
What has been achieved with air quality?
Plant modernization and operational improvements at Teck Trail Operations, including installation of the KIVCET lead smelter in 1997, reduced emissions of lead and other metals from the smelter stacks by over 99% since the 1990s. Children’s blood lead levels have decreased significantly over the same time period.
In 2013, Teck initiated a multi-year program to reduce fugitive dust emissions from the Trail Operations site to further improve ambient air quality. Since the inception of fugitive emissions reduction, lead levels in community air have declined to around 0.11 µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter of air), a 68% reduction since 2013. The aim is continuous improvement of these levels. Figure 1 charts annual average for lead in community air from 1998 – 2019.
The Trail Area Health & Environment Committee (THEC) is always aiming to improve air quality in Trail.
Figure 1 Annual Average Lead in Community Air 1989-2019.
Historically, the THEC developed air quality goals and consulted the community to make sure there was support for the goals. The most recent goals, set following public consultation in 2010, were as follows:
- To have an annual average of lead in community air of 0.20 µg/m3or lower by 2018, with continuous improvement to 2020.
- To have an annual average of arsenic in community air of 0.010 µg/m3or lower by 2018, with continuous improvement to 2020.
These goals were achieved in 2016 (for arsenic) and 2017 (for lead). Going forward, the THEC will seek continuous improvement in ambient air quality through ongoing initiatives at Teck Trail Operations.
How are metals in air monitored?
Regular monitoring helps identify significant emissions sources, track the effectiveness of emissions and dust control efforts, and track progress on air quality goals. 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.
- Near real-time analyzers measure metals concentrations at Butler Park and Duncan Flats (every hour) and transmit readings to Trail Operations to directly and immediately respond to any unexpected increase.
- 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.
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 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.
Teck Community Air Monitoring Stations
How is dust controlled in the community?
While most towns only clean streets in the spring and fall, the City of Trail performs at least two street sweepings of the whole community in summer as well as weekly sweeping and flushing of the downtown core. Dust suppressant is applied to unpaved alleys in Trail each June. One additional summer sweeping is performed in Rivervale. The roads are flushed with water at the time of sweeping so that dust is not stirred up in the process. During the regular spring sweepings, it is difficult not to stir up dust but the sand applied in the winter does not contain lead, so lead levels on the street are relatively low.
Trail Street Cleaning Schedules
Downtown core – swept and flushed
Victoria St. – swept and flushed
Rossland Ave. – swept and flushed
Victoria St. bridge – swept and flushed
Baily St. (from the Victoria St. bridge to the Fifth Ave. tunnel) – swept and flushed
West Trail Approach – major cleanup in the spring including storm sewer flushing, and sweeping
Bingay Rd. (Warfield Hill) – major cleanup in the spring including storm sewer flushing, and sweeping
Flushing of all amenity areas, and sidewalks throughout the highways corridor
Monday to Thursday on a ±2 week rotating basis
Waneta – 1 day
Glenmerry – 1.5 days
Miral Heights/Shavers Bench – 1.5 days
East Trail – 2 days
Sunningdale – 1 day
West Trail – 2 days
Bingay Rd./Stoney Creek Rd. and Tadanac – 1 day
Dust suppressant is applied to unpaved alleys in Trail each June
What about other air quality considerations?
The THEC partners are working toward a review of the full picture of air quality in Trail, including sulphur dioxide. The levels of sulphur dioxide in the air are determined by a combination of emission sources, weather patterns and the surrounding terrain.
Sulphur dioxide is monitored at four locations throughout the valley – Birchbank, Butler Park, Columbia Gardens and Warfield. These stations operate continuously, with near real-time data  (also available to the public) transmitted back to the operation’s process control systems. If the sulphur dioxide levels begin to climb (such as during a temperature inversion), the plants are automatically notified so that actions can be taken to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions.
Some people, particularly those with respiratory conditions, may be more sensitive to sulphur dioxide exposure. This could result in irritation of the eyes and respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
Teck is developing projects to further reduce ambient sulphur dioxide concentrations over the next few years.
 Data is available to the public: https://www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/bcairquality/readings/find-stations-map-SO2.html.