How ECCC is managing pollution from small gas engines

This month, we are profiling ECCC’s work on managing pollution from small gas engines. Be sure to follow the department’s social media channels to learn interesting facts about pollution from everyday tools, and actions you can take to help make our air cleaner.

Did you know that at ECCC, we have a team at the Ottawa River Road facility who is responsible for testing engines to ensure compliance with Canadian regulations? As Canadians are enjoying the summer, many of us are using lawn mowers, hedge trimmers and weed-whackers to take care of our lawns and gardens.

While we are all aware of the pollution emitted by vehicles, we may not think that these smaller engines are also significant sources of pollutants. In 2018, the Government of Canada amended regulations for off-road small spark-ignition (gasoline powered) engine emissions, which includes common household garden tools like lawnmowers. These new regulations are more stringent, and designed to align with those of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). Our colleagues at the River Road lab work to ensure our everyday garden tools comply with these regulations.

Testing engines large and small

Norman Meyer, Unit Head of Development/Engine Testing explains the compliance tests done by their group of engineers and technicians. The testing done at the facility ranges from small handheld engines with less than one horsepower right up to cars, trucks, motorcycles, snowmobiles, trains and ships. However, no matter the size of the engine, the goal remains the same.

“ECCC is here to guarantee that engines meet the Canadian Environmental Protection Act,” says Meyer.

Manufacturers are responsible for submitting results to ECCC’s Environmental Protection Branch. The team at the River Road facility provide a valuable extra check. Meyer and his team run the engine at various speeds and loads, and measure the amount of pollutants including carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide released into the environment.

Trust but Verify

While the majority of products pass the test, the extra verification provides confirmation that companies can use the ECCC national emissions mark on their product.

“It’s a matter of trust…but verify,” Meyer explains. Meyer and his team test the engines at different speeds and power to ensure compliance with the federal regulations. Recent stories about engine and car companies providing inaccurate information to authorities is one example to demonstrate how essential their role is.

While the majority of the group’s work on small engines is for compliance purposes, the River Road facility also conducts a significant amount of effort on research projects with other Government of Canada and U.S. partners as well as consortiums of exhaust equipment manufacturers and others. In the past, they have also collaborated on many international projects, especially helping countries in the developing world gain experience in emission testing.

While the work of Norm’s group ensures compliance, did you know there are many corded and battery powered lawn and garden tools on the market today that perform as well as gas-run engines, and are often priced competitively? Learn more by following our social media channels as we continue to highlight pollution from small gas engines this month.