It's a burning issue one Port Coquitlam resident says is literally smoking him out of house, home and health.
Northside resident Roy Reinmuth claims the emissions from a neighbourhood chimney have destroyed his health and temperament, causing him to miss work for the last 10 weeks.
Reinmuth says the problem began in 2008 or 2009, when he began feeling ill both inside and outside of his home. He said his symptoms include dizziness, nausea, coughing, diarrhea and irritability.
"We get literally smoked out of house and home here," said Reinmuth, adding he can't be in his yard for more than 30 seconds without feeling sick.
"It's been going on for several years. I've become really sick from it."
Baffled by the cause of his symptoms, Reinmuth's doctor told him the issue was likely tied to the wood smoke being emitted near his home. His doctor's solution, according to Reinmuth, was to move.
"All they say is get away from the smoke - it feels like someone has clamped down on your lungs," he said. "My eyes start to water and it's like an allergic reaction."
However, Reinmuth claims he's been told by realtors the wood smoke issue would have to be declared prior to the sale of his home, which he estimates would lessen the value of the property by anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000.
Faced with the potential of those losses, Reinmuth - along with his wife and five-year-old daughter - decided he has no choice but to stay in the home.
Instead of trying to move, Reinmuth reached out to both the city and Metro Vancouver, the governing body tasked with air quality, for help.
Ray Robb, Metro Vancouver's environmental regulation and enforcement division manager, told The NOW Friday that regional officials have been to Reinmuth's home to test air quality standards.
Robb explained that Metro's testing practices include monitoring the average amount of particulate matter that's emitted over a 24-hour period on a given property. According to Robb, those tests were applied at Reinmuth's home, and the acceptable levels were not exceeded. He added that Metro receives about 90 complaints regarding wood smoke from across the region on a yearly basis.
In instances where those particulate matter thresholds are exceeded, Metro has the authority to tell a property owner to cease and desist. However, Robb said that order is rarely, if ever, issued.
"The most we can do is order them to basically not cause the pollution," he said.
"But we've never been there, so it's totally hypothetical."
Robb did, however, note that Metro will join forces with various health authorities at some point in 2013 to begin studying the
impacts of wood smoke on the region.
"It's a long-term issue and we recognize that there's benefits to be had to reduce the impact of wood smoke," he said. "And we recognize that some people are going to be seriously impacted, even at the levels that we're at now. There are some sensitive folks out there, and it's tough on them. We totally get that. We're not quite ready for full-on regulation."
PoCo Mayor Greg Moore could not be reached for comment, but in a letter to Reinmuth, he noted the city has received correspondence from only two local residents - including Reinmuth - asking for the regulation or prohibition of residential wood smoke in the last four years.
However, the letter also states that any type of legislation regulating wood smoke would be within the sphere of the province or Metro Vancouver, and not in the city's mandate.
Reinmuth said he's stopped talking to his neighbours, and ultimately wants a peaceful resolution regardless of who intervenes on his behalf.
"I want to be on a neutral footing with [my neighbours]," he said. "For the sake of me and my wife, we don't want to have any animosity."
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