FTLComm - Tisdale - August 7, 1999
Though the companies that operate the various dehydration plants in this part of Saskatchewan are quite sensitive about remarks one makes about the smoke that comes from their plants these pictures on the relatively calm Saturday morning with temperatures of about ten degrees are pretty revealing In order to reduce the moisture content of the freshly cut alfalfa natural gas heated units are fired up to evaporate the water from the plant material. Natural gas burns to form water and carbon dioxide. It is one of the cleanest fuels we can use. In these pictures we can see the white plume climbing into the morning sky and because of its colour there is no question that it is nothing but water. In fact a lot of water. However in each picture you can see just as clearly above the white water vapour a nasty gray material that is of course unburned, but partly burnt hydrocarbons. Though this material smells a bit and can be an annoyance no one would consider this a major air pollution concern.
The problem that we as a society and country face is that rather harmless operations like this are to be found all over the place and with them some not so harmless plants like oil field flares that flash off into the atmosphere thousands and thousands of tonnes of material twenty-four hours of every day. Environmental protection laws in Canada and its provinces are enormously complex with the provinces having responsibility for about 60% of emissions and the Federal government in charge of about 40%. Yet the true situation is that both levels of government have left controlling what happens pretty much up to the various industries. Our dehydration plant operators are extremely conscientious monitoring what they put into the atmosphere and Interprovincial Steel and Pipe in Regina has produced a model factory on how to curb atmospheric emissions, While at the same time the oil industry goes to and beyond the limit of the law only curbing themselves when they are certain to get caught.

This attitude toward the environment and the atmosphere on which we depend was the subject of several international conferences and Canada has always been big with speeches and pronouncements but on the ground and in the air it has been quite a different story. Self regulation and business first attitudes are the norm and light concern is given to manufacturing poison. Since large companies all use lawyers to develop their cost effective policies there is a deliberate attempt always for corporations to maintain an operating level that will be cost effective and if there is something around like self regulation then the attitude is poison and profits are bosom buddies.

For you and me who are downwind of any atmospheric contributor we are at their mercy. Federal and provincial regulations and enforcement are such that unless we start to die off immediately in very large numbers no one is going to do anything.

The pictures on this page were taken this morning and the plume on the right is from Parkland Alfalfa fifteen miles North. Because these companies are locally owned
and operated I think we are okay, but it is all a matter of good faith. In the picture above notice that less then half of what you see is water vapour and the dark gray stuff is heavier then the air and tumbles downwind dropping particles. Faith and hope seem like good things but when it involves every breath we take I would like something a little more reassuring.