Coal heating has increased in Fairbanks in recent years, adding to the PM 2.5 pollution problem and health concerns.
The New York Times cited Fairbanks in its story on the rise of coal in home heating in “Coal Is Returning to Home Furnaces” 12/2008. The use of coal was identified as a health hazard:
In Fairbanks, air quality experts suspect the increase in coal burning — along with increased wood burning — is contributing to concentrations of fine particles well above federal limits. “We see it as a real health hazard to Fairbanks,” said Jim Conner, the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s air quality specialist.
In 2008, a coal boiler was purchased by a grant from the state of Alaska and installed in the Fairbanks Food Bank, see 2008 newsletter. According to the newsletter:
Our current heating system is natural gas, and those costs are high and unpredictable after December of this year, so thanks to a grant through the State of Alaska, requested by Representative Jay Ramras, we were able to purchase a coal boiler to reduce our daily operations costs. Our plan is to have this new boiler installed by October of this year. We will still have natural gas as a backup fuel, but coal will be the primary fuel to heat our warehouse.
Some residents have tried and abandoned coal. Chris Nickel, a North Pole resident on Hurst Road, switched over to coal when he ran out of wood for his outdoor burner which consumed an unfathomable 30 cords each winter. That’s about a cord a week. Heating with coal, his two children could no longer play in his backyard because the “snow was coated in soot.” Mr. Nickel rethought his options and sought help from the FNSB’s stove replacement program and now uses a cleaner-burning pellet stove to heat his home. Read the full article: “Fairbanks borough’s wood stove exchange program is gathering steam” FDNM 9/2010.
For details on available payments and/or tax credits, read about the FNSB’s stove exchange program information and contact the Borough Air Quality office to sign up. Safer, more fuel efficient, and cleaner burning stoves will lower PM 2.5 and make a big difference in the quality of air we all breathe.