Clean Air Fairbanks’ response to “The Pollution Equation” by Jeremia Schrock published in the Sun Star 9/17/2010.
Where is the evidence for the irresponsible assertion that switching to certified wood stoves would have “minimal at best” benefits? If it is true that inversions and power plant emissions cause the majority of the problem, then what explains the dramatic hourly fluctuations in PM 2.5 levels? Could it be that inefficient wood boilers are sending up pulses of pollution flowing slowly across our community?
Before telling residents there is nothing to be done, researchers must seek to explain the recent worsening trend of fine particle pollution. If Fairbanks’ climate creates conditions which inevitably lead to high concentrations of fine particle pollutants, then what accounts for the problem worsening so dramatically in the last few years? Has the population grown? Not significantly. Have the inversions been deeper and longer lasting? Again, no.
Could the power plants be burning more coal and diesel? Not according to Jim Dodson, email@example.com of Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation, “I checked and found that the consumption of coal in all our plants, including Eielson, has not increased for several years.”
For the UAF researchers to fail to consider the new contributions of fine particle pollution from the boom in inefficient wood boilers installed in the last three years is nothing less than irresponsible. Neighbors and schools near these inefficient uncertified boilers (outdoor wood or coal-burning boilers) have noticed the change and can pinpoint the sources, even the day they started burning.
Review the 5-year comparison chart in the FNSB’s 2009 Symposium Presentations “Fixed Site Trends” by Jim Conner, FNSB Air Quality Specialist. The chart “Particulate Matter in the FNSB” covering 2003-04 to 2007-08 records the largest number of days exceeding the 35 micrograms/cubic meter standard was 30.
Then, according to the FNSB 2009 Symposium Summary Figure 5, the following winter (2008/2009), the number of days exceeding the standard jumped to 41.
Rather than making unsubstantiated assertions, UAF researchers should get the number of exceedences during our most recent winter (2009-10) from the FNSB’s ongoing sampling program and explain them and the trend over the past 6 years. If the exceedances are caused by climate or power plant emissions or, most likely, woodsmoke, these researchers should be able to nail down a correlation.
Until then, please refrain from telling parents and grandparents to throw up their hands in defeat and accept the worsening and sickening trend of fine particle pollution in our community. When parents can watch a plume of woodsmoke coming toward their home or their children’s school, there’s not much room for doubt as to where it’s coming from.