Air quality in Prince Albert area improved

Jodi Schellenberg
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Despite air quality issues last week, the murky air hanging over Prince Albert has cleared this week.

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Due to forest fires in the Northwest Territories, particulates and smoke from the fires travelled south the hang over the community last week.

“Recently, the fires are definitely still burning but the air quality has improved,” said Kevin McCullum, chief engineer for the Ministry of Environment. “Even in the P.A. area over the last probably 24 hours plus, the particulate matter, which we measure for the smoke, has gone down drastically.”

Since the fires in the Northwest Territories are still burning, and there is risk of more air quality issues from other fires in the west, the ministry is keeping an eye on the issue.

“Last week, the primary issue we were having throughout the province was due to the forest fires in the Northwest Territories but recently some of the forest fires in B.C. have expanded and northern Alberta,” McCullum said. “We are definitely keeping an eye on those and some of the smoke issues as well. At this point, they haven’t impacted the province.”

The provinces all stay connected, to make sure the others know the air quality and other risks associated with forest fires.

“We have a model that we work with all the western provinces and we all keep tabs on each other to make sure everything is OK, but that is one of the things we watch for,” McCullum said.

If smoke is causing more air quality issues, he said the Ministry of Environment will work with the Ministry of Health to issue an advisory.

“Right now, the haze has pretty much dissipated from the area and as we are looking at some of the long-term forecasts, one of the things we also look at is the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI),” McCullum said. “Right now the AQHI is sitting around a one, which means it is the low end of low-risk. It means people can participate in outdoor activities with low risk to their health.

“We also keep tabs on the forecast, the AQHI forecast, right now straight through to Thursday is it showing that it is going to be either a one or two, which is the low risk side.”

Last week, the AQHI was sitting between three and four -- McCullum said anywhere from four to six is considered a moderate risk.

“The model will only predict out 48 hours,” he said. “We are constantly checking it throughout the day and making sure everything is good.

“Currently, everything has been sitting on the low end. The particulate levels are quite low so I am hoping it stays this way.”

Organizations: Ministry of Environment, AQHI, Ministry of Health Air Quality

Geographic location: Northwest Territories, Prince Albert, P.A. B.C. Northern Alberta

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