Air quality in area generally good, but no one’s interested

On Nov. 24 Ward 32 Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon hosted an Air Quality Action and Information meeting at the S.H. Armstrong Community Centre. The focus of the meeting was a study by the city to determine the air quality in Wards 31 and 32. The conclusion of the multi-year study – the DVP and local industries contribute to pollution. Really?

Or to put it another way –“It’s nothing to get too excited about.”

That seems to have been the gist of the report given by Christopher Morgan, Program Manager of Air Quality at the City of Toronto, after a lengthy presentation on pollutant numbers that reminded me of my high-school chemistry classes (minus the explosion experiments).

Morgan spent over an hour talking about model pollution data collected from Eastern North America, Southern Ontario, and Toronto, which combined with weather models and patterns were then thrown into a super computer that used 500 ‘virtual stations’ to determine how bad (or not-so-bad) our air is in wards 31 and 32.

This was also the first time that the models combined the numbers of 30 different pollutants.

Maps were shown with colours from dark red to pleasant yellows. It was a no-brainer, as Morgan put it, that the Don Valley “Parking Lot” caused the immediate area to be most vulnerable to “bad” air quality.

The Beach, on the other hand, was coloured mainly in yellow and light orange, with the nearest culprit being the emissions from factories along Commissioners Street, particularly CanRoof.

Numbers were given on various things from PM10 and PM2.5 (Particle Matters) to the increase of cancer risk from one in a million to 83 in a million.

The most striking number of the evening, though, was the attendees at the meeting – seven (excluding myself and the city councillor).

“People in the Beach need to be more pro-active and less reactive,” said McMahon,  implying that residents should take steps now to prevent worsening air quality conditions.

McMahon would like to see more trees in the ward. “I want to see a ‘tree captain’ on every street,” she said.

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