For over a decade, Sue DesLauriers would have had to spend a little extra on cleaning supplies every month. DesLauriers owned a home on Bruce Street in Horseshoe Bay and living there meant cleaning the black soot deposited by the plumes coming from the BC Ferries operating in and out of the terminal close by. “We would clean it nice and shiny, but within weeks it would start to go black again and then we would clean again and a thick black soot would be back again,” she says.
She has since moved up a few blocks away where soot isn’t as concentrated, but she wonders about the negative effects of inhaling the emissions from BC ferry may have had on her health. She says she has no way to correlate the two, but is worried that the nose and throat allergies she has experienced in the past may have been because of the ferry emissions that the wind can push. Lodged in between the mountains, the plumes of smoke can linger in the village.
“It can get very smoggy here and it can be a bigger size plume than that,” she said pointing to the thin plume of air visible from the lower parts of the village over the ferry terminal. She hasn’t researched the health effects of the plumes, but says BC ferries should look at cleaner fuel sources to run the ferries. Ed Gilchrist, who also lives on Bruce Street, often checks Metro Vancouver website for air quality and says the air quality in the area is good—95 per cent of the time. When it’s not very good—the rest of the five per cent—he attributes to the plumes coming from the ferry. He sees a spike in air quality degradation when the plumes of smoke from BC ferries moves into the area, which he checks on a Metro Vancouver website. He has noticed the plumes are bigger when the ferry from Nanaimo route ferry comes into Horseshoe Bay.
“It depends on the prevailing wind but you can see the trail when the wind is pushing it in, and it can stay there for 20 minutes after the ferry is gone. I have a little guy and I am concerned about his health. If there are options to switch to a different type of fuel source, that is something I would love to consider. I’d love to see them not idle the ferry if they could dock and ramp down the idling. Anything that they can do to reduce the amount of exhaust they are emitting, I think that would be useful,” he says.
Poor air quality because of the smoke from the ferry is what prompted a Horseshoe Bay citizen to write to West Vancouver council recently after hearing from BC Ferries that they didn’t plan yet to replace older ferries with newer ones that will run on cleaner energy fuel. Just looking at the colour and density of the plumes, one can see the stack emissions represent a significant source of air quality degradation, the writer says.
“During periods of atmospheric temperature inversion (when the atmosphere above the city is warmer than the air lying near ground level), the ferry vessel emissions are stacked within the Horseshoe Bay area and can with successive ferry arrivals and departures build up to the point where the degradation in the air quality is such that the village is blanketed in smog which is visible from Wellington Street above the Horseshoe village. When the wind is from north, stack plumes from these vessels, while docked in the terminals, touch down in the village in the vicinity of Douglas Street southward to Marine Drive in a cone-shaped area extending from terminal parking lot westward to Royal Avenue,” the citizen wrote.
Gilchrist also wants BC ferries to do more to monitor the air quality and post test results on their website. He says the ferries should also stop idling, which only contributes to the pollution. “It comes in and pushes on the loading dock and it keeps running, and pushing against the loading dock and it can do that for an hour at a time. It’s the idling there, and the engine is pushing it to hold it in place, rather than being tied in place,” he says.
In September this year, BC ferries upgraded two vessels on Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay route to run on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and the company estimates the switch from diesel to natural gas will cut carbon emissions by 12,000 tonnes annually. But BC ferries doesn’t have any plan to do that on any routes running from Horseshoe Bay, at least not now. Tessa Humphries, BC Ferries manager of communications, says the company is looking for long term plans include introducing new vessels on the Horseshoe Bay to Langdale route but these plans are approximately 5-6 years away. “As with all new technologies, we continue to explore cleaner combustion options, including natural gas if it is feasible and economical. Although we don’t have any short term plans to replace the Nanaimo or Bowen Island vessels, as they do come up for replacement in the future, the same efforts will be applied there,” she said.
That doesn’t sound too reassuring if you are living closer to the ferry terminal. “It seems that nothing will avail the corporation to change its plan or the mode of its operation for operating out of Horseshoe Bay. And so the residents and ratepayers of Horseshoe Bay village must suffer poor air quality for a decade or so, may be longer,” a local citizen wrote to the council.