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  • Volume Eight, Number Eight: December 2003

    Burnaby Refinery Emissions Still Raising Concerns

    CPP News Service

    Despite efforts to reduce pollutants and improve its overall performance, emissions from the Chevron Oil Refinery on Burrard Inlet in Burnaby are still a concern, according to a lower mainland monitoring agency.

    The recently released Lower Fraser Valley Ambient Air Quality Report for 2002 reports Chevron’s North Burnaby oil refinery is still the region’s largest single source of hazardous sulphur dioxide (SO2) air pollution.

    GVRD air quality monitoring stations at Capitol Hill and near the Second Narrows registered a spike in SO2 readings for 2002 compared to 2001. Capitol Hill, located nearest the Chevron refinery, showed maximum concentrations of SO2 that exceeded 260 parts per billion (ppb). That compares with a maximum reading of just less than 150 ppb in 2001.

    SO2 is formed by the combustion of fossil fuels containing sulphur. It reacts in the atmosphere to form sulphur trioxide, sulphuric acid and particulate sulphates that, in turn, contribute to acid rain. Brief exposure in humans to high concentrations of sulphur dioxide and its by-products can irritate the upper respiratory tract and aggravate existing cardiac and respiratory disease. Long-term exposure may increase the risk of developing chronic respiratory disease.

    Pollution from the Chevron refinery is a long-standing problem for North Burnaby residents. In May 2000, an accident at the refinery spilled 80,000 litres of toxic MTBE gas additive. And in October 2000, a plume of deadly hydrogen sulphide gas was released when an onsite waste system failed.

    According to the GVRD, the Chevron refinery is responsible for 31 percent of all SO2 in the Lower Mainland. The rest comes from marine engines and motor vehicles. Environment Canada has targeted SO2 as a main contributor to acid rain and air pollution. The WCB warns that prolonged exposure to SO2 decreases lung function and can lead to chronic bronchitis.

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