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Last Thursday (January 25), more than a few Burnaby and Vancouver residents noticed a strange odour blanketing their neighbourhoods.
Perhaps drumming up inspiration for their Lynryd Skynyrd karaoke rendition of “That Smell”, folks took to X and Reddit to ask: “Can’t you smell that smell?”
According to an air quality bulletin update from Environment Canada, the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and Metro Vancouver, there was an operation at the Parkland Burnaby Refinery that resulted in odour, smoke, and flaring last week—and the pesky smell seems to still be lingering.
“The first stage of our operational procedure at the Burnaby Refinery is complete,” the refinery writes in an update from January 28.
It seemed to start when the refinery began a “controlled and necessary operational procedure as the first step in the safe restart” of the refinery.
“At this time, there is low likelihood of smoke or odours in the community,” the refinery’s website states. “We continue to progress to the next stage of the process.”
However, Environment Canada has maintained its air quality advisory as of today (January 29), noting that people should keep doors and windows closed, and stay inside when possible, advising to take to air-conditioned indoor spaces like libraries and community centres as they “may have lower concentrations of … contaminants.”
It also states that those with chronic underlying medical conditions like heart disease, lung disease, asthma, and diabetes “may wish to reduce outdoor physical activity” until the notice is lifted.
The Metro Vancouver air quality health index for Metro Vancouver Northwest (which includes North Burnaby and East Vancouver, in close proximity to the refinery) is expected to rise to four today—which is considered a moderate risk to the public. It is currently at two, which is low risk.
“We appreciate everyone’s patience as we navigate this process,” the refinery says in a statement. “We continue to work closely with our regulators, stakeholders, and community neighbours, and will provide ongoing updates as we progress work.”
If you live in the area, maybe invest in some nose plugs in the meantime.