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This Canadian city has made huge progress in cleaning up pollution.

Cleaning up: What Sudbury can teach China

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Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Friday, June 27, 2014, 1:00 PM - It's the heart of the Nickel Belt, a major mining centre, but emissions monitoring and prevention is taken very, very seriously in Greater Sutherland.

So much so that the city could be a model for China - an industrial giant whose breakneck pace of development has resulted in severe air quality issues in many cities.

The image of the face mask-wearing commuter may hold true in Beijing, but not in Sudbury.

The Weather Network caught up with Andrew Taylor, a senior environmental analyst at Vale, whose job it is to monitor sulphur dioxide emissions, and his mobile emissions vehicle is part of a network that includes 17 fixed emissions monitors located across the city.

They monitor air quality on a minute-by-minute basis in the Sudbury Basin. It's an attention to detail not previously shown in the city, which in past decades made little effort to mitigate the effects of the industry on the environment.

This Toronto Star article is chock-full of anecdotes from the time, like how housewives would plant tomatoes in wagons - the better to wheel them away from descending clouds of pollution.

Bill Keller, a climate scientist at Laurentian University, has his own recollections.

"When I and other scientists started working on these lakes back in the early 1970s, some of those lakes were among the most acid-metal contaminated lakes in the world," he said.

Now, he says, the region has recovered to the extent that formerly contaminated lakes can now support fish populations.

"We would never have thought we would see these lakes in as good a condition as they are today."

Angie Robson, Vale Canada's corporate affairs manager from Ontario, told the Weather Network, says the region is recognized by the world as a place where remediation has worked.

"China certainly has their issues, and we certainly hope to continue to look to us, and we are happy along with our partners to share information about how that can be fixed over time," she said. "It's been ... a lot of time and effort by a lot of people, but we are pretty proud of where we've come."

With files from Chris Dawson.

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