Letters to the Editor for the week of August 30 

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Human waste along Riverside trail

My name is Presley and I am a dog who lives in Cheakamus. In recent months there has been a growing amount of human feces in the woods along the Riverside trail, most notably around House Rock and at the mid-point pull out en route to Loggers Lake.

The sad thing is my dog friends and I get into this human waste and end up getting very sick. We understand the municipality is very busy and patrolling this area to issue tickets for these overnighters is challenging to keep up with and is not deterring the action.

On behalf of the K9 and human friends who enjoy these trails, we would like to request washroom facilities and/or better signage be placed in the area to address this issue. Who knows, our daily hikers may enjoy this relief as well.

Thank you.

Presley, on behalf of
Mike Janyk and Sarah Stead

Train isn't the answer

Commuter train to Whistler? No thanks.

For those who may think such a service would be of help to us, consider this: first, any train would face stiff competition from an already effective network of bus companies and transfer services that meet the needs of customers and cater to where the customers usually are, the airport or Downtown. Both have no direct rail connection. 

For a train to achieve such a seamless connection service that buses now provide would cost us billions of dollars. In the end, billions that would be wasted on competing with an already effective network of carriers presently serving us. 

There is a saying in the transportation business: "frequency builds numbers." It would take a very expensive schedule of trains to compete with the many bus and other options now offered. A bus can leave with as little as 10 people, profitably, whereas a train needs a lot more to be profitable and who is going to make up for any loss? 

If you get on a bus at the hotel in Whistler, your next step off would be the airport, no connections needed. Despite losing Greyhound, Whistler, unlike other towns, still has many options throughout the day. And for pricing, our bus service is pretty affordable. 

Any dream of effective and cheap rail for Whistlerites died when BC Rail was sold off to CN. Now rather than deal with Victoria and all the leverage our town may have as a tourist generator, we have to deal with a multinational company with its headquarters back east. 

Why it was sold makes me so mad and question the motives of politicians, in this case Gordon Campbell's Liberals. To reacquire those assets and rights would be bitterly expensive. 

Some may remember that up until about the late '80s, Whistler had passenger rail service. The BC Rail Budd car left North Van in the morning and ended in Lillooet, returning later in the evening.

It was good for Pemberton to Lillooet, but mostly a pain for any skier. I tried and tried, but apart from the attraction as a train, it was a logistical nuisance and I always preferred the "once-per-day" bus we had back then. 

Perhaps we should focus on CNG-powered hybrid buses as a step forward. As for the railway, it still puzzles and angers me as to why we sold off BC Rail.  

Lance Bright
Whistler

DES heating systems: are they safe?

(Editor's note: this letter was shared with Pique and addressed to mayor and council.)

It appears that the majority of owners in the five townhome developments (The Heights, The Terrace, The Rise, Whitewater and Riverbend) that were part of the 2010 Olympics Athlete's Village Development are heating their hot water with the heat pump option because they believe that it uses less hydro and saves them money compared to heating hot water with the conventional electric tank option.

A note on page 22 of the Residential Heating System Technical Service Guide (April 2016) states: "the heat pump should be used for all DHW (domestic hot water) heating with the (electric) backup elements in the "off position.'" The guide recommends that the heat pump be set to 52 C for hot water. However, most heat pumps in the 174 townhomes are set at 48 C or lower to prevent red screens.

Since it came into force in 2012, the 2012 BC Plumbing Code has required that thermostats for electric water heaters be set to 60 C to prevent the growth of Legionella. This raises the question of whether temperatures lower than 60 C are safe.

This question appears to be answered with an implied affirmative in the document Domestic Hot Water Tank Replacement Update posted on the Cheakamus Crossing website on March 14, 2017. The document suggests that circulating water at any temperature will have the equivalent bactericidal effect as thermostats set to 60 C.

The document states: "The requirement to maintain 60 C with an electric storage tank was added in the current 2012 version of the British Columbia Building Code to limit Legionella growth in the bottom of electric tanks because of the stratification in the tank.

"The system provided in Cheakamus, while utilizing electric tanks also has circulation from the heat pump that will limit the stratification and therefore could possibly be considered code compliant via an alternate solution as discussed below.

The first point is that "could possibly be considered code compliant via an alternate solution" is not the same as "approved by the building inspector as an alternate solution under the building code and a valid and subsisting building permit."

This issue aside, the idea that circulation that limits stratification might reduce the growth of Legionella appears to make sense on the surface. But does circulation have the same bactericidal effect as a 60 C thermostat setting? This question is answered by two complementary studies.

1. A 2008 paper published in the International Journal of Hygiene Environmental Health titled "Occurrence of Legionella in hot water systems of single-family residences in suburbs of two German cities with special reference to solar and district heating" states: 

"Our data show convincingly that the temperature of the hot water is probably the most important or perhaps the only determinant factor for multiplication of Legionella. Water with a temperature below 46 degrees C was most frequently colonized and contained the highest concentrations of legionellae." 

2. A 2013 study, published in Environmental Engineering Science, titled "The Role of Hot Water System Design on Factors Influential to Pathogen Regrowth: Temperature, Chlorine Residual, Hydrogen Evolution, and Sediment" compared bacteria levels in electric water heaters at 49 C and 60 C and with and without tank circulation states:

"Recirculation tanks had much greater volumes of water at temperature ranges with potential for increased pathogen growth when set at 49°C compared with standard tank systems without recirculation. In contrast, when set at the higher end of acceptable ranges (i.e., 60°C), this relationship was reversed and recirculation systems had less volume of water at risk for pathogen growth compared with conventional systems. 

"Recirculation tanks also tended to have much lower levels of disinfectant residual (standard systems had 40-to–600-per-cent higher residual), four to six as much hydrogen, and three to 20 times more sediment compared with standard tanks without recirculation."

"This is also the first study to quantify hydrogen concentrations in hot water systems, which is of future interest given that hydrogen is an important energy source allowing virulence gene activation of Salmonella and other human pathogens."

Is Legionella serious? An article published in the Jan./Feb. 2004 edition of The Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases; "residential water heater temperature: 49 or 60 degrees Celsius?" answers this question in the affirmative.

"This (Legionella) is a serious illness associated with high death rates (up to 12%). Primary groups at risk (the elderly, smokers, the immunocompromised and patients suffering from chronic respiratory illnesses), are groups who include a large proportion of the population at home."

Of particular concern is the statement: "The importance of Legionnaire's disease is underestimated because it is difficult to diagnose and because it is reported through a passive surveillance system."

After concluding that the use of an electric water heater is the most significant factor leading to Legionella contamination in hot water in the home, the infectious disease specialists recommended that "electric water heaters already installed should be set at 60°C to limit the risk of Legionella contamination."

David MacPhail
Whistler

Gluttonous energy consumption and selfish attitudes prevent Whistler, and the world, from meeting climate change targets

Trapped in my house with an outside Air Quality Index of 10-plus due to smoke from forest fires that are becoming larger and more frequent, in part, due to human-caused global warming, I read the “Whistler’s GHG emissions continue to rise” article.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Anyone using the roads or parking lots can easily see the high percentage of large, gas-guzzling vehicles. Many of them are huge SUVs or pick up trucks. While some people may need these vehicles for work, a large portion do not.

It is a myth that you need a 4WD SUV to live in or visit Whistler. For the past 10 years I have driven a Honda Fit, rated at 50 mpg, year-round in Whistler. It is our vehicle of choice when we go skiing. We are a family of four, all of whom are over six feet. We even have room for a fifth passenger if the need arises.

For summer we can get four bikes or four kayaks on the roof rack. On some trips we even have a lower carbon footprint per person than riding the bus, according to Planetair, four people in a fuel-efficient vehicle each have a lower carbon footprint that each of 30 people using a city bus.

This is an example of how many people could reduce their carbon footprint. They just choose not to. Even our children are being ingrained with this culture of energy gluttony as there is a twice-daily glut of vehicles dropping off and picking up students every day at the schools.

You don’t have to search far to find much more blatant examples of excessive energy consumption. The paper consistently has ads for ATV, side-by-side, and snowmobile tours. There are several companies that spend a good portion of the summer driving clients up and down the Callaghan Valley road looking for bears.

Honestly do the bears actually look better from a gas guzzling Land Rover Discovery or Jeep Wrangler than from a Toyota Prius? The irony is that we see many more bears while riding our bikes up the Callaghan Road than the tour companies do and we don’t park blocking the driving lane and idle. At a time when almost every scientist with a pulse is pleading with us to reduce our GHG emissions, should we really be promoting pollution for pleasure activities that glorify burning gas as the feature of your outdoor activity?

While these companies do employ numerous staff, since when does the better good of the planet take second place to a business’s profit margin? After all, isn’t that how the planet became so polluted in the first place? There are many less polluting activities that they could be promoting instead. Yet on a regular basis we are given the opportunity to squander even more of our natural resources on such carbon-intensive activities as heli-biking, heli-hiking, heli-golf, and heli-skiing.

Do people really have such little respect for the environment that they would take a helicopter up Mt. Currie just to drive gold balls into the wilderness? Now there is heli-yoga at Beverly Lake. I don’t have anything against people doing yoga at Beverly Lake as long as they hike up there like the rest of us. If you don’t feel comfortable hiking up there on your own, Whistler has many well qualified ACMG guides that would be happy to take you there at a fraction of the cost.

The poster child for gluttonous fuel use is the pair that recently flew a helicopter around the world using over 26,000 litres of fuel. As pointed by a previous letter to the editor that is enough fuel to last the average Canadian over 22 years. Producing one barrel of fuel (159 L) consumes 5.333 tonnes of sand/Boreal Forest. So, this helicopter flight around the world destroyed 872 tonnes of sand/Boreal forest and produced 47.6 tonnes of carbon.

There is other collateral damage in creating fuel from the oilsands. Outside Magazine’s December 2014 article by Ted Genoways states, “Tar Island Pond One owned by Suncor, by Suncor’s admission released 400,000 gallons of sludge into the river every day. Environmental Defence estimated the combined daily leakage from all the tailings ponds into the Athabasca River to be nearly 3 million gallons.”

A recent article by James Wilt states, “At last count, the Alberta Energy Regulator estimates it will cost at least $23.2 billion to clean up the oilsands tailing ponds. Environmental Defence reports that it may be double that, with its online counter nearing $50 billion in largely unfunded liabilities.”

Is this the legacy we want to leave our children just because we are too selfish or lazy to change our ways?

Even our healthy lifestyles are a contributing factor. Just ask one of our accomplished local skiing, snowboarding, or mountain biking athletes how much they have flown this year. Or ask your neighbour, as we all justify travel if it involves biking or skiing. The 2010 Winter Olympic events held at Cypress were almost wiped out due to heavy rain. We were told it was just a bad year. Five of the warmest years in history were in the last seven years. How long does this have to continue before we admit that if five of the last seven years were the warmest in history, we need to change our ways?

Our homes and commercial buildings aren’t any better. Clearly, we are on mission to build larger and larger homes. Even with advances in technology a 5,000-square-foot house will use more energy than a 1,500-square-foot house.

There are many reasons for this. More space consumes more energy to heat. Even though many of the new houses are touted as consuming less energy, that is only true if they are used efficiently. From 18 years as a real estate appraiser I know first hand how wasteful many of these homes are.

The home in Lakecrest with the heated garage floor that was on during a 25 C day in July when the home had not been occupied for months. The home in Kadenwood with vast windows, most of which didn’t open. Instead a ventilation system and filter system ran 24 hours a day in conjunction with heat and air conditioning to provide “fresh air.”

Another home with four hot water tanks with nearly 1,000 L capacity just to make sure there was always enough hot water. Historically an electrical panel with a 225 amp capacity was ample. Now it is not infrequent for homes to have 450 amps. A clear indication that electric consumption is up. Most new homes have outside accent lighting and even lighting for their landscaping. Sure, it is good to have lights at your front door but do the bears and wildlife really need to see your house at night?

Many homes now have heated patios and overhead patio heaters just in case the down jacket you wear at -10 C in the winter won’t keep you warm on your deck in the summer. The latest must have extravagance is a gas patio or deck firepit. Really are we raping the boreal forest so people can sit on their decks and watch gas burn?

Even the RMOW sets a bad example. Just look at the overkill of Christmas lights strung up in the Village every winter. Yes, they are all LED, but half as many would still look great. The commercial sector is not exempt from squandering energy. The outside lights on the Husky station are on 24 hours a day. I believe the Four Seasons Private residents have patio heaters on every deck. Many hotels have heated counters at their check desks. Many of the stores in the village have excess lighting that could be substantially reduced without effecting their business other than saving them money.

Walk through the village in any season and see how many businesses keep their doors open all year regardless of the outside temperature. Even Whistler Blackcomb, which has made great efforts to reduce its GHG emissions and has the most to lose from global warming, is not exempt from promoting wasteful energy use. Go to their website and you are encouraged to buy a GMC vehicle, not a Smart car or Prius but a large truck. They even feature the giant GMC pick up on quad tracks outside the Roundhouse and on a video blasting through the snow. Makes it difficult to believe that they would actually like me to buy a fuel-efficient Chevy Spark and do my bit to ensure there will be skiing in the future.

If WB really wanted to make a statement illustrating how far they will go to prevent climate change, they could stop heli-skiing, and ban the on mountain ATV and snowmobile tours or at least buy a dimmer switch for the Tube Park.

This is just a short list of examples that show why Whistler and the world won’t meet their climate change targets. The real reason and the blunt reality of the situation is that we don’t care enough and that the pain and consequences of doing nothing are not strong enough or immediate enough to motivate change. It really comes down to, are we willing to sacrifice the environment in order to maintain our current lifestyles or are we willing to sacrifice our current lifestyles to preserve the environment?

If you are having trouble with that answer you could Google wildfires in B.C. and it may help you decide.

Bryce Leigh
Whistler

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