New air tests will be performed in Prince George to determine formaldehyde presence after tests 18 months ago showed high levels of the carcinogen. ((pachapg.ca))

The B.C. government will re-test air quality in a Prince George neighbourhood where extraordinarily high traces of the carcinogen formaldehyde were found in samples gathered 18 months ago.

Local residents in the Millar Addition neighbourhood were never informed of the test results, CBC News reported Thursday.

The MLA for Prince George-Valemount, Transportation Minister Shirley Bond, said Thursday that new tests would be performed but she did not know when.

'It should be that the government wants to do what's right' —Prince George environmental activist Dave Fuller

The B.C. NDP's environment critic says the government should have acted much sooner.

"It shouldn't take breaking news for our government to do the right thing," said MLA Rob Fleming.

"Protecting human health and air quality should be monitoring that happens much more frequently than that, to make sure that our playgrounds and neighbourhoods are safe."

Bad odours

Five air samples were taken by the B.C. Environment Ministry in July and August 2008 after years of complaints from residents about frequent bad odours in the air.

The results were so extreme — up to 18 times the acceptable level — that ministry officials suspected the data might be incorrect and did not inform residents about the tests out of concern they might cause unnecessary panic, ministry spokeswoman Maureen Bilawchuk said.

There were no plans to perform new tests and no funds had been allocated for them, Bilawchuk said Wednesday. The tests would cost between $6,000 and $12,000.

One local environmental activist said health care and pollution prevention should not be media driven.

"It should be that the government wants to do what's right — not that the government wants to avoid embarrassment to them," said Dave Fuller, president of the People's Action Committee for Healthy Air in Prince George.

Some neighbourhood residents have said they suspected the formaldehyde was contained in emissions from local pulp mills and an oil refinery.