Environmental Sustainability for Lethbridge
Submitted to the Lethbridge Herald July 2021
Lethbridge has recently passed a new Municipal Development Plan (MDP) to direct decisions for the community into the future. One of the six main aspirations in the MDP is to be an environmentally responsible city, and this aspiration is well-reflected throughout the plan.
As an environmentally responsible city, Lethbridge would consider the natural environment as a foundation for life, culture and economy. Protecting natural spaces, conserving natural resources, reducing waste (and diverting what we do waste from the landfill), and transitioning from our dependency on fossil fuel energy are fundamental efforts we can make as a community.
We at SAGE would argue that the crucial dimension integrated into the MDP is mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change. Nations are beginning to respond to the urgency of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, requiring global policy agreements and local action. The plan recognizes our current trends to a warmer climate where “the annual number of over-30C days in Lethbridge will nearly double from an average of 17 days per year … to 33 days” by 2050. These changes will affect our economy, how we work, what we grow, and how we recreate. As Naomi Klein has written: “This changes everything.”
The MDP states: “Resiliency is the ability to respond and adapt to changes and challenges. It can be approached individually or through community-wide efforts. Resiliency is about creating a position of readiness where the community is able to react and adapt to external forces and their impacts.”
This notion of resiliency has implications for the design and usability of every aspect of our community, and is articulated throughout the MDP with policies that:
- Express the necessity for our homes and buildings to run more efficiently, using less energy while improving the level of comfort we enjoy.
- Prioritize infill development over new development, and detail how walking, cycling, or public transit may be encouraged over personal vehicle use to access grocers and amenities.
- Plan for the optimization of solar exposure to generate electricity.
- Outline the continued improvement of managing municipal waste streams to conserve resources.
- Envision a reduction in the demand for watering yards and parks, adapting to continued declines in river flows.
- Mark the need to control invasive species while encouraging pollinators to support local food security.
The recent Muncipal Development Plan is as good a document as one could make to position Lethbridge as an environmentally responsible city. There is widespread agreement that the next ten years will determine the quality of our collective future. But a plan is only as good as the decision-makers who apply it. With a municipal election this October 18th, Lethbridge will be choosing a new Mayor and council and it will be imperative that the candidates understand the issues and the seriousness of their decisions that will make Lethbridge a resilient community.
SAGE has been a leading voice for a healthy and environmentally sustainable community since 1984. Please, visit our website at sage-environment.org if you wish to get more involved.
Radon Risks in your Home
Published in The Lethbridge Herald
29 December 2020
As winter has arrived and we shut in for another COVID-19 lockdown, it is timely to consider the health of your indoor environment. An emerging health concern in our homes is a high level of radon.
You may not have ever heard of radon, but it is an invisible, odourless, tasteless, radioactive gas formed by the disintegration of radium, which is a decay product of uranium found in the soil. Radon can enter a home from the surrounding soil and accumulate over time, particularly in spaces that are not well ventilated.
Radon is considered the second leading cause of lung cancer in Canada. The Canadian Lung Association states: “As radon breaks down it forms radioactive particles that can get lodged into your lung tissue as you breathe. The radon particles release energy that can damage the cells in your lungs. When the cells in your lungs are damaged, there is the possibility of developing lung cancer. If you smoke and you live in a home with a high level of radon, you are at an even higher risk for lung cancer.” Radon is a long-term health hazard in your home.
Lethbridge is in a zone with a high potential for radon, though the actual levels can vary widely between areas and even from home to home. The amount of radon accumulating in a home will also depend on how much fresh air moves through. Some older, leakier homes and those with mechanical ventilation systems may have lower radon levels compared to newer, tightly built homes that trap the air better. The thing is, new or old, tight or leaky, you can’t really know until your home is tested.
In the latest version of the National Building Code of Canada, new homes are to be designed for future radon mitigation, if required. Testing for radon levels is also becoming more common in real estate transactions. And that is the good news: through the Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C-NRPP) there are more trained professionals in the region, and radon has never been easier to test for and to mitigate.
A trained technician can conduct a short-term test for a current indication of radon levels in your living space, but it is important to know that a long-term test of three to five months is required for accurate results. These long-term tests involve a small device that is left in your living space for the duration of the test. If your radon levels are above the current health safety guidelines of 200 becquerels you would be wise to plan for mitigation with the advice of a trained professional. The winter season is an optimum time to test for radon because it is the period when windows and doors stay closed – consider a professional test as the ultimate present for your friends and families!
The Southern Alberta Group for the Environment is a leading voice for a healthy and environmentally sustainable community. For more information on radon and C-NRPP trained professionals for radon testing and mitigation, visit our site at sage-environment.org
C-NRPP Professionals in Lethbridge:
For more information: Canadian National Radon Proficiency Program (C-NRPP)