Alberta confirms poor air quality in Peace River
A cattle rancher in northern Alberta says he's relieved the province has admitted there is an air quality problem in his town of Three Creeks and the surrounding area, which is home to several oilsands developments.
Carmen Langer and fellow residents in and around the town east of Peace River, Alta., have complained about strong odours in the air for years that they suspected were the result of oilsands and other energy developments in the area.
The province took air samples in the Peace River region earlier this year, and on Tuesday, Alberta Environment confirmed there is an air quality problem.
It found the odour is the result of hydrocarbons such as ethane and pentane released into the air by the energy operations, but said there are no concerns about potential lasting health effects.
Randall Barrett, regional manager for Alberta Environment, said the government is hoping to correct the issue soon.
He said some of the energy companies operating in the area have agreed to ramp down their emissions for the next few months.
Further testing will be done in the fall to help devise a permanent solution.
"We've confirmed that there are levels here that are above odour thresholds and people could smell [them]," Barrett said. "It's a health impact because it's affecting people's quality of life.
"It's a health effect; we're definitely very clear on that. It's just not a health effect that would cause ongoing diseases, those kind of things."
But rancher Langer said fixing the problem is going to take some leadership.
Langer said members of his family have been suffering from a variety of health problems, including headaches, nausea and diarrhea, and that some of his cattle are sick, too.
He said the problem is only going to get worse as some of the companies expand their developments.
"They finally admitted, [for the] first time ever last week, it wasn't an air problem, and … that took a lot of weight off my shoulders," Langer told CBC News.
"This problem is not going to be solved for several years, not with the expansions… The government has to get control of this. [It has to] stop giving permits until we get a handle on this."