This summer marked the first time in since his lung transplant 12 years ago that Norm Kopec had to use a puffer to help his breathing.
The 77-year-old North Shore resident said Wednesday this summer was the worst in a long time for pulp-mill smells irritating his emphysema.
“I can’t breathe. I have to go on puffers. After 11 years with my transplant, I’m back on puffers. I can’t go out in that yard. And I’m noticing it’s getting worse,” he said.
“I can’t do a lot of things I used to do for 10 years. My other organs are in excellent shape.”
Kopec grew up one block from where he lives now, the only neighbourhood he’s ever known. As a youth, he helped out with the family fruit growing business by spraying trees — without a mask or any other protection.
“We’d even squirt each other.”
The non-smoker believes that might have been what caused his emphysema, which was the reason for his transplant in 2001.
Whatever the cause, the Kelly Drive resident said he knows the difference between two major odour sources across the river: the pulp mill and the sewage plant.
And he’s convinced it’s the Domtar operation that’s causing the smell, despite a B.C. Environment air-quality meteorologist saying measuring equipment hasn’t shown anything unusual this year.
Kopec doesn’t call the ministry when the smell gets bad, he goes straight to Domtar. He estimated he’s called staff there at least eight or 10 times this summer.
“The winds shift and it comes right through my place, up through the valley,” he said. Kopec believes the emissions aren’t being pumped high enough out of the stack, so they’re rolling down into the valley.
Stuart Lister, Domtar manager of corporate communications and public affairs, said the company has recorded 13 odour complaints between June and August — half the number it received the year before.
Each complaint is investigated.
“We’re investigating how the dispersion is happening under our new configuration,” he said.
“We investigate all the odour complaints. Everyone gets a call or email. With the boiler shut down and then the A-line shut down, there’s no spike in the ministry readings.”
But the fact that neighbours are still complaining has Domtar looking at wind direction and other possible factors. Because with the two shutdowns, odour emissions themselves are measuring 80 per cent below what they were.
“So there are less emissions, but it seems what remains is being blown around by the wind,” Lister said.
“We take all odour complaints seriously. We’re looking at how we can improve high stack dispersion. That’s really the key message. We investigate every single one of these odour complaints.”