The City has conducted a comprehensive air quality human health risk assessment of the current and predicted 2030 exhaust emissions from Canadian Pacific (CP) rail operations in the city of Pitt Meadows.
The interim report, completed in November 2021, examined current conditions and projected future pollutants and carcinogens from CP railway emissions in Pitt Meadows. This provided key data in relation to air quality standards in Canada and potential human health risks that will be expanded upon in the next part of the study.
The final report, completed in July 2022, considered additional pollutants from diesel emissions that have known health risks, as well as estimated health risks associated with these emissions.
On July 26, 2022 - Envirochem Services Inc., shared its completed air quality and preliminary Human Health Risk Assessment of the current and projected diesel emissions from Canadian Pacific’s (CP) railway operations in Pitt Meadows. Read the staff report and watch the Council presentation.
The completed study reviewed an expanded list of emission contaminants related to existing and potential future rail operations in Pitt Meadows, using plausible worst case scenarios. The findings indicated that health effects due to railway emissions exceeded acceptable health thresholds for the three scenarios evaluated. The health risks were predicted to increase in future scenarios based on 2030 rail operations.
Locomotive emissions are projected to be more concentrated near the VIF. The lower train speed limit for the rail bridge crossing results in locomotives slowing and spending relatively more time and, therefore, polluting more in this area. Switching activities at the VIF facility, and at the LPV (along with heavy truck traffic), also contribute to the higher overall emission production in this area.
For the mainline east of the VIF, rail speed limits are higher, resulting in trains in the emissions modelling spending less time in these areas per length of track. The modelled emissions and contaminant concentrations are comparatively lower.
On November 23, 2021 - Envirochem Services Inc., shared their initial analysis of the current and projected diesel emissions from Canadian Pacific’s (CP) railway operations in Pitt Meadows. Read the staff report and watch the Council presentation.
- Based on the past four years of available data from the regional air quality monitoring station on Old Dewdney Trunk Road, local air quality has generally only exceeded Metro Vancouver’s current air quality objectives when wildfire smoke has impacted the region.
- Air quality modelling of hazardous fine diesel particulate matter, using plausible worst case scenarios of train volumes, emission levels, and idling locations, projects that current worst-case locations show that contaminant levels from diesel locomotives can lead to increased risk of cancer, respiratory illness, cardiovascular conditions, and other health conditions. With projected 2030 train operations and the proposed CP Logistics Park (again using worst-case scenarios), the estimated risk of these health conditions increases.
More information, see the full report.
Staff will continue to work with Metro Vancouver and Fraser Health staff to identify a process to address and advocate for reduced train pollutant levels along the rail corridor. The findings of the report will be shared with Fraser Health and Metro Vancouver. In addition, the City will continue to advocate to Government of Canada, Health Canada and the Canadian Transportation Agency for mitigation measures, for both current and future rail operations for enforceable and appropriate health-based regulatory air quality standards for railway emissions to protect community members from related health risks.
Following these discussions, staff will report back to Council in November 2022 with information on collaboration opportunities and a recommended advocacy strategy to pursue pollutant avoidance and mitigation measures.
Key Regulatory Facts
Based on a review of relevant air quality and emissions standards and regulations, there are no enforceable standards governing the impacts on local air quality by train emissions.
Metro Vancouver does regulate regional production of harmful emissions; however, they have no jurisdiction over trains operated by federally regulated railways.
The Canada Locomotive Emissions Regulation restricts maximum pollutant outputs for locomotives being brought into service based on their age of manufacture, with increasingly stringent standards for new and remanufactured locomotives. Over time, locomotives will produce fewer pollutants as they are re-fitted with emission controls to comply with these regulations, but the cumulative effects of train traffic on local air quality and human health remain a concern.
Updates and Reports
- Council Meeting: July 26, 2022 - Final Report - Pitt Meadows Preliminary Air Quality and Human Health Risk Assessment of Railway-source Diesel Emissions and related staff report. View the presentation here.
- Council Meeting: November 15, 2021 - Interim Report - Pitt Meadows Preliminary Air Quality and Human Health Risk Assessment of Railway-source Diesel Emissions and related staff report. View the presentation here.
- Council Meeting: April 13, 2021 - Update on Environmental Study of CP Rail Operations. View the presentation here.
- Council Meeting: December 8, 2020 – Council directed staff to commission an environmental study of CP Rail’s existing and proposed expansion of operations in Pitt Meadows. View the presentation here.