The province says a report on cruise ship emissions indicates air quality is improving in James Bay, but nearby residents think otherwise.
From Alaska to Seattle, the Regatta makes a stop at Ogden Point. Victoria is Canada’s biggest port of call, but with a higher volume of cruise ships, the level of sulpher dioxide in the air emitted by these carriers is dropping.
“They look at 10-minute intervals, one hour intervals and 24 hour and each of those have steadily declined in amounts in the community,” says Greater Victoria Harbour Authority Chief Operating Officer Sonterra Ross.
Sulpher dioxide levels peaked in James Bay in 2009, periodically exceeding the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines.
Lower sulpher fuel requirements and cruise lines investing in better gas cleaning technology has helped, and the Harbour Authority has implemented a fee to encourage newer technology.
“We’ve seen over the first three months of this operating season a steady decline in older vehicles being used,” says Ross.
“And we also encourage our walking, so we see and increase in walkers off the ships.”
But for one James Bay resident, air quality is still a big problem.
“The wind changes direction and it’s pushed down onto your specific place, and you can’t open your windows, you’re reminded that you’re probably in a toxic area, for the hours that they are here,” says Jarek Gwiazda.
Gwiazda has lived on Dallas Road for 20 years and with traffic in the water, busses on the road and helijet nearby, quality of life is not what it used to be.
“Plus there’s buses there right now that have nothing to do with the cruise ship industry, that are idling and creating exhaust fumes.”
Gwiazda adds, “so, it’s a nice place, a lot of people would envy us, but we’ve got problems.”
In late June, a group called Save James Bay started a petition for the G-V-H-A to implement shore side electrical power so ships can turn engines off while at berth.
Ross says it wasn’t feasible 5 years ago, but is being looked at again.
“We’re looking at that to see if it would fit now for Victoria,” says Ross.
“We’re seeing longer ship stays, the average has gone up to being 6 to 7 hours and just to see if it’s feasible.”
Which could help nearby residents in James Bay breath a little easier.