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Air quality statement lifted in Waterloo-Wellington

The special air quality statement in place in Waterloo region and Wellington County since Monday has been lifted.

Smoke billowing off wildfires in northeastern Ontario and Quebec resulted in poor air quality for millions in both provinces and the northeastern United States this week.

The map on the left shows areas under special air quality statements (in grey) as of Thursday at 11 a.m. The map on the right shows the situation on Friday at 11 a.m. Areas in red are under smog warnings. (Environment Canada)

By Friday morning, air quality statements had shifted northwest.

While the statement has been lifted, smells of smoke and slight haze could still be noted in Kitchener on Friday morning.


“It is a very rare occurrence to have such a high level of contaminants reach southern Ontario due to wildfires,” Environment Canada meteorologist Steven Flisfeder said Thursday.

School boards in Waterloo region postponed regional track meets Wednesday with Environment Canada warning air pollution could reach level 7 on its Air Quality Health Index (AQHI).

At level 7 and above, the federal weather agency says seniors, young children, people who are pregnant and anyone with asthma, lung and heart disease should reduce or reschedule strenuous outdoor activities.

Ultimately, Kitchener air pollution levels stayed in the “moderate risk” zone Wednesday, registering a level 6 at worst between 11 a.m. and noon.

Local air quality has hovered around a level 4 throughout most of Thursday, but Environment Canada forecasts it could sink to level 6 this evening.

“We are still expecting air quality to be deteriorated through the evening,” Flisfeder said. “It really does depend on how the concentrations are affected by the wildfire situation.”


With a chance of rain Thursday night, the question is how much will fall and how much of a difference it will make.

“Any rain in the forecast will help improve the air quality. It helps flush out the contaminants from the sky and bring them to the ground level where they won’t be a factor in the air quality as much,” Flisfeder said.

Flisfeder said air quality is expected to improve heading into the weekend as wind conditions shift, but said that could change if wildfires can’t be controlled.

Haze from wildfires in northeastern Ontario and Quebec can be seen in Waterloo on June 6, 2023. (Alison Sandstrom/CTV News)


Meanwhile, some aren’t letting the hazy conditions get in the way of their plans.

“You can feel it and smell it a little bit, but it doesn’t seem that bad,” Brad Hoffman said Thursday morning at Rockway Golf Course in Kitchener.

Others are taking precautions, like wearing a mask outside, until the smoke clears.

“I had COVID a few months ago, and I continue to have challenges with my lung capacity as a result,” Kyra Jansen said. “I’m just trying to protect myself the best I can. It’s just interesting going from wearing a mask indoors to wearing one outdoors.” Top Stories

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