James Bay cruise ship
Photo by Dave Van Photography

Have you noticed cleaner air recently in Victoria? A little less pollution in the skies? According to reports, Sulphur Dioxide levels in James Bay have hit a record low.

The BC Lung Association’s revealed the news in its Annual State of the Air Report.

James Bay had the fifth highest recorded SO2 levels in BC in 2015. However, in 2016 the community dropped to 29th highest in the province.

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) started measuring air quality in the community in 2011. Since then, levels of sulphur dioxide have steadily declined.

The sulphur dioxide guidelines promoted by Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) describe “good” levels between 0 and 35 ppb. Through 2016, the highest recorded levels of SO2 from the James Bay station only reached 16 parts per billion.

Cleaner Air A Result of Community Engagement

“This is great news, not only for the residents of James Bay but for the city,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “It’s proof that community partners, working together, can improve quality of life in very real ways.”

In 2011, the GVHA funded a James Bay monitoring station, partly due to concern about the health effects of emissions from cruise ships at Ogden Point. The station tests and registers SO2 levels every hour and reports them online.

The last six years of measurement show the result of a marked decrease in sulphur-heavy fuel used by the cruise industry on approach and departure from ports.

“There’s still work to do, but these results are excellent,” says Al-Nashir Charania, environmental projects coordinator for GVHA. “They came about through direct action not only by the shipping industry, but also by a very engaged community in James Bay.”

The GVHA has committed to funding the James Bay air quality monitoring station through 2019, with the possibility of ongoing financial support into the future.

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