Burning issue continues to consume North Cowichan.

Burning issue continues to consume North Cowichan.

North Cowichan backs off new burning bylaws

Municipality looks to extend open burning in the fall

North Cowichan’s council decided to stick with its open-burning window policy at its meeting on Sept. 6, and gave the new regulations third reading.

Council was considering scrapping its long-standing policy of allowing open burning only during two windows each fall and spring in favour of allowing burning all year round for certain properties in order to reduce the amount of smoke pollution that is in the air at any one time.

But a staff report indicated that approximately 60 per cent of respondents to the proposal were opposed to it, with many stating that, in fact, more burning restrictions are needed to protect people’s health.

So council decided to keep the spring open-burning times restricted to between March 15 and April 15, but, after a motion from Coun. Joyce Behnsen, it was decided that the fall open-burning times should be extended an extra month and could now be between Sept. 15 and Nov. 30.

Council is expected to vote on the final adoption of the new regulations at its next meeting on Sept. 20 and, if passed, they will become municipal policy on Jan. 1.

A staff report indicated that extending the open-burning window in the fall will improve opportunities to burn with the proper venting conditions and distribute emissions more evenly in absence of a complete ban on open burning.

The report said it also should alleviate the public’s concerns regarding year-round emissions and the burning of wet debris piles.

As well, council is still considering allowing burning to occur on properties greater than two acres within the urban containment boundary for the first time with a permit from North Cowichan.

But Jennifer Lawson, a member of the Cowichan Fresh Air Team, pointed out to council that hospital admissions for children with respiratory diseases were on average 70 per cent higher in the Valley than the rest of B.C., asthma rates were 14 per cent higher and chronic respiratory illness in people over 45 was 50 per cent higher in the Valley.

“The worst-kept secret that the Cowichan Valley is about to be put on the list as one of the world’s worst places for air quality is about to be revealed,” she told council.

“It’s time to stop all the unnecessary burning.”

Coun. Tom Walker said he supports adding extra time on the open-window for burning each fall.

“I’ve always had trouble concentrating burning into tight time periods,” he said.

“There are always problems finding enough days to burn that have good venting.”

Mayor Jon Lefebure said he’s not in favour of extending the open burning period as he believes it’s inevitable that it would lead to more burning.

“I would prefer a complete ban on open burning within the urban containment boundary,” he said.

“I believe that composting wood waste is a better way to go.”