Possible rain relief on the way as Windsor landscaper pulls back on work due to air quality

Colton Romanick is the owner and operator of The Lawn Guys. He said his team is halting some non-essential work, and encouraging workers to take extra breaks, amid poor air quality outside due to wildfire smoke.  (Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit)
Colton Romanick is the owner and operator of The Lawn Guys. He said his team is halting some non-essential work, and encouraging workers to take extra breaks, amid poor air quality outside due to wildfire smoke. (Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit)

Poor air quality across the Windsor-Essex region, caused by smoke from wildfires raging across the county, means some outdoor workers are putting a halt on extra work for now.

Colton Romanick is the owner and operator of The Lawn Guys, a local landscaping company. Aside from contractual obligations, he said they're encouraging team members to take it easy outside.

"Right now, we're trying to do just the bare essentials," Romanick said. "We've really been putting a halt trying to keep everyone in good condition here."

WATCH: Windsor landscaper says workers easing up under smoky skies

Romanick said they're offering their team masks, more breaks and shorter hours for now to keep anyone from getting sick. Customers have been understanding of the short-term limitations, he added.

"With the air quality, [it's] definitely not safe to a certain extent. When we're doing stuff outside and you're getting pollen and everything in your lungs, this definitely doesn't help that," he said.

"It should be a short thing hopefully. If that's the case, then we really haven't had to delay too much."

Ryan Bondy
Ryan Bondy

Air quality could improve by next week: Meteorologist

Poor air quality across southwestern Ontario could improve by next week, according to a CBC senior meteorologist.

Johanna Wagstaffe says between 10 and 20 millimetres of rain is possible Sunday through Monday, coming up from the southwest U.S.

"It not only brings rain … that's what we need to mix out that smoke, and a shift in wind direction which will push the smoke from those Quebec fires northward," she said.

Until then, Wagstaffe says air quality across Ontario, Quebec and the Eastern Seaboard is expected to remain poor.

WATCH | Fresh plume of wildfire smoke heading to southern Ontario Thursday

As of 4 p.m. Thursday, Windsor, Sarnia and Chatham's air quality index ratings were at low to moderate risk levels with higher forecasted levels later in the day and into Friday.

Wildfire smoke prompted Environment Canada to issue an air quality advisory the areas on Tuesday.

Wagstaffe says a new "dense pocket" of smoke from Quebec wildfires is expected to disperse through southern Ontario on Thursday — stretching out across Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe regions, as a low pressure system pushes east with calmer winds.


Wednesday's plume concentrated most heavily near Toronto, she says, then went south to New York.

"We will be at the whim of the winds until those fires are put out … so this is unfortunately just the start of what could be a long, smokey season for many Canadians."

The medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex says residents should keep a close eye on Ontario's Air Quality Index ratings before deciding what to do outside.

As far as the long-term impacts the current air quality could have, Dr. Mehdi Aloosh says "there is no level of safety" when it comes to smoke in the air.

The chance for showers comes after Environment Canada called last month the driest May on record for Windsor-Essex since 1870.

Peter Kimbell, warning preparedness meteorologist, said the area only saw 23 millimetres in May. And June has been just as dry so far.

Windsor boards let schools choose air quality precautions

Scott Scantlebury, spokesperson with the Greater Essex County District School Board, says they've shared weather advisories with school administrators and are leaving it up to their discretion about outdoor activities.

"Certainly, shorter periods outside [for students] could be one action they take," he said.

The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board (WECDSB) says it has not directed its schools to make any changes to their schedules, based on recent poor air quality levels in the area.

However, WECDSB spokesperson Stephen Fields says all of their principals have been made aware of the situation, have been asked to closely monitor their students and staff and to act accordingly if the situation warrants.

"At about 6 a.m. yesterday we sent an Environment Canada air quality statement to all principals, which basically tells people to stop any outdoor activities if someone in their care experiences shortness of breath, wheezing, severe coughing, dizziness or chest pains," Fields said in a statement.

Hey says principals will use their best judgment and deal with any air quality situations that may arise.

"Principals know their student and staff populations very well, and will be paying extra attention to any who might have pre-existing conditions that would be exacerbated by poor air quality."

Lyne Cossette with the French Catholic board that serves Windsor-Essex says the following guidelines have been communicated to their schools if Ontario's Air Quality Health Index is rated 7 to 10 (high risk) :

  • Limit the time students spend playing outdoors (reduce recess time to a maximum of 15 minutes or have recess indoors)

  • Encourage students to walk instead of run outdoors (whenever possible)

  • Remind staff to pay attention to care plans for students with asthma or respiratory challenges, as well as for employees with the challenges

  • Take special care to ensure that children with asthma have their inhalers with them at all times

  • No physical education classes can be held outdoors.