Airborne dust has been an ongoing concern in Sparwood.                                  File photo

Airborne dust has been an ongoing concern in Sparwood. File photo

Teck to compensate Sparwood residents for dust

House cleaning among mitigation measures pitched by focus group; plus former Mayor joins SCEEAC

Teck could offer house cleaning services in Sparwood as it looks for ways to compensate residents for airborne dust stemming from a nearby coal mine.

Air quality has been an ongoing issue for the mining town as dust events at Elkview Operations leave homes and cars coated in a film of black coal dust, with about 50 people attending a public forum in September.

LOOK BACK: Teck Coal hosts air quality forum in Sparwood

In response to public concern, Teck hosted a focus group with a number of community members to initiate discussions and identify ways to ease impacts on the community.

Mitigation measures identified by community members at the initial meeting included exterior housing cleaning, supporting the District of Sparwood in cleaning public areas such as playgrounds, continuing the development and enforcement of the Clean Vehicle Strategy, and improving communication on the implementation of dust management projects, and Teck’s work in Sparwood.

LOOK BACK: Teck, District agree to monitor dusting events in Sparwood

The focus group is due to meet again this month to review proposed community mitigation measures, which are slated to start in April or May.

Teck is also investigating using remote sensing technology to reduce airborne dust and working with an American university to monitor, and mitigate its impacts.

The company delivered an update on its improvement initiatives to the Socio-Community and Economic Effects Advisory Committee (SCEEAC) on March 12.

“Teck’s presentation outlined a number of challenges they have with dust in certain cases and then ways they are planning to mitigate dust going forward,” said SCEEAC Chair and Councillor, Joe Jarina.

“They also described some new innovative approaches they are exploring, including using LiDAR, and using citizen science with help from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).”

Starting next month, Teck will trial two LiDAR units for three months to monitor airborne particulate generation and movement at Elkview.

LiDAR – which stands for Light Detection and Ranging – is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges to the Earth.

Teck will use the data to create a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model to evaluate the effectiveness of mitigation measures put in place to reduce fugitive dust from wind erosion, with a special focus on weather conditions that exasperate impacts at the BR2 highwall and Natal Spoil.

Its work with MIT may involve citizen science and the deployment of monitors on residents’ personal vehicles, and homes to identify high impact areas and improve understanding of localized effects

MIT is also evaluating Teck’s current practices and will provide recommendations based on international research and experience.

Former Mayor joins mine expansion committee

The former Mayor of Sparwood has joined the committee overseeing an expansion of the Elkview coal mine.

Cal McDougall was first elected to the District of Sparwood in 1995 and served four terms before announcing his retirement last year.

Earlier this month, he was appointed to the Socio-Community and Economic Effects Advisory Committee (SCEEAC) until December 31, 2021.

LOOK BACK: Committee to oversee expansion of Teck coal mine in Sparwood

Made up of representatives from the District, Teck and the community, the SCEEAC oversees the Baldy Ridge Extension project, which will extend the overall life of Elkview Operations until 2045 and increases the disturbance area by 862 hectares.

McDougall replaces former SCEEAC member John Ralph, who resigned due to time constraints.

“Council gave direction that they wanted to fill that vacancy and so they decided to select someone from the set of applicants we received last year,” said SCEEAC Chair and Councillor, Joe Jarina.

The SCEEAC is currently convening monthly with meetings scheduled for April, May, June, July and October.

Jarina said the regular pace of meetings will be quarterly with the committee expected to slow down in summer.

“The SCEEAC’s work so far has been to get up to speed on the subject matter and the committee has not voted on any recommendations for action on these topics yet,” he said.

“The work is ongoing and these issues will be revisited as the SCEEAC reviews management plans provided by Teck.”

Meetings are open to the public and will be more accessible going forward after the committee voted to record meetings, and upload them to the District’s website.

At the March 12 meeting, it also scheduled the Baldy Ridge Extension annual meeting for May 14 at 7 p.m. The location for the meeting is still to be determined.

For more information on the SCEEAC, including meeting times, visit Sparwood.ca/livable.

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