Finding better ways of testing for air pollutants would be more effective than adding more testing locations to the city, according to Coun. Dave Wilbur.
During Monday night's meeting, city council received a presentation from Prince George Air Improvement Roundtable executive director Terry Robert and B.C. Minstry of the Environment regional director Ed Hoffman on the study that identified elevated of acrolein in the Millar Addition.
The study, conducted between 2011 and 2012, looked at the concentration of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air when there was a noticeable odour in the neighbourhood.
Acrolein - a chemical known to cause irritation to the eye, nose and throat - is a pungent-smelling compound that originates from a variety of sources including cigarette smoke, diesel engines and overheated cooking oil.
Coun. Cameron Stolz said it seems unfortunate that the city is forced to rely on a single 24-hour testing site. There are 12 static monitors scattered throughout the city in total.
"There are certain challenges to to our air quality that we can't fix unless we have more data," he said.
But Wilbur said focusing on adding more data collection points loses sight of the difficulties outlined in actually collecting the data, as outlined by Hoffman.
The issue, explained Hoffman, is that acrolein is a "tricky substance to sample."
"One, because if it's left in the sampling container too long what it does is it will force other VOCs to have the same signature as acrolein when it goes into the lab and has testing done," said Hoffman. "And then also the testing procedures or the lab procedures are challenging."
According to Hoffman, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has already spent millions of dollars trying to figure out how to perfectly sample and track the chemical.
But the mandate of PG AIR is focused on reducing fine particulate, not volatile organic compounds, said Robert.
After the VOC study was released in August, PG AIR collected 21 oral and written community responses.
"While the numbers are not large, the levels of angst amongst those 21 community members are significant and high," said Robert, also noting "significant participant misinformation" about which agency is responsible for what. "For example, PG AIR is not the regulator of emissions nor is it the lead agency responsible for community health." However there may be mutual benefits by focusing on things within the group's purview, such as diesel and pulp and paper manufacturer reductions.
"There's pros and cons to spending additional resources on additional studies on this," said Robert. "Particularly when we compare it back to the opportunity cost of emission reductions where we know there are significant health impacts."