The story of two Gulf Islands: Thetis and Gabriola

Today the following two screenshots of air quality on Gabriola Island (Berry Point Road) sensor and Thetis Island show dramatically the impacts of wood stoves on air quality. Both sets of data were captured at 7PM on April 5, 2018.

Thetis Island has a population of 350. It has no industry, minimal traffic and the centre of the island is 13.5 km from the Crofton Pulp and Paper Mill.  Thetis is almost due north at 174 degrees from the mill.

At this time, the air quality at the sensor's location is excellent and consistently low over various averaging periods. You should note that the bottom line in the graph is flat indicating no significant sources of wood smoke or other particulate pollution.

By contrast, Gabriola Island has a population of 4000 with many households that use wood for home heating. Like with Thetis Island, there is no industry and minimal vehicular traffic on Gabriola. The distance from the sensor on Berry Point Road to the Harmac Pulp and Paper Mill in Nanaimo is 7.5 km and this location is also almost due north from that mill. There is no noticeable smell from industrial operations at this time, and the wind is currently blowing in a westerly direction.

You'll note from the image above a few things. The air pollution levels at most averaging periods is much higher than Thetis Island. This is 100% from wood stoves in the area of the sensor. You will also notice that the bottom line in the graph shows a dramatic variability reflecting the start-up and combustion cycle of wood burning appliances.

Burning wood for home heating may be familiar, easy, and cheap for some... but it's never safe for those who live nearby.


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