Despite the hopes of many, the borough’s voluntary educational program has not improved air quality at local schools. Progress made through the approval of the Air Quality Ordinance in June 2010 has been halted due to the passage of Proposition A on Oct 5, 2010. Public and district staff concerns raised since 2008 have not begun to be addressed. As of mid-October 2010, air quality conditions have already begun to degrade in localized areas.
Take appropriate action now to engage agency enforcement
- Press Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to enforce state regulations 18 AAC 50.110 & 18 AAC 50.075 on public nuisance air pollution violators. Contact: Commissioner Larry Hartig, Alaska DEC, State of Alaska firstname.lastname@example.org phone (907)465-5066, fax (907)465-5070, PO Box 111800, Juneau, AK 99801-1800. Also: Director Alice Edwards, Division of Air Quality, Alaska DEC, State of Alaska email@example.com phone (907)465-5105 or toll free (866)241-2805, fax (907)465-5129, PO Box 111800, Juneau, AK 99801-1800.
- Request Alaska DEC strongly pursue enforcement measures against violators of state air quality laws and regulations to reduce harm incurred by schools, students, and district staff.
- Request the FNSB Mayor and Assembly, the City of Fairbanks Mayor, Fairbanks City Council, the City of North Pole Mayor, and City of North Pole Council assess all options to reduce PM 2.5 pollution to safe levels throughout our community as rapidly as possible.
- Consider advocating for smoke-safe zones of higher protection around schools.
Assess the problem of PM 2.5 pollution affecting FNSB schools
- Request & assess all available winter (October-May) air quality data from FNSB Air Quality office. At least three types of data are available: mobile vehicle instantaneous road sampling program, RAMs trailer which has been at Watershed and Woodriver, fixed-site monitoring in six locations including Nordale Elem & North Pole Elementary.
- Request & assess existing indoor air quality sampling data for Woodriver.
- Request that the RAMs trailer continue to be located at Woodriver through May 2010 or that a permanent BAMs device be sited nearby.
- Ask Alaska DEC to help the FNSB Air Quality Program with loans of additional air monitoring equipment if needed.
- Request the borough Air Quality Program conduct indoor air quality sampling inside Woodriver for the duration of the winter (October 2010- May 2011).
- Support borough installation of a camera on the roof of Woodriver to aide in monitoring of nearby emission sources.
- Review public complaints about air quality at district schools submitted to the Borough Air Quality office from 2008 to current. 260 public air quality complaints were submitted to the borough during 2008 to May 2010; of these, 75 complaints were submitted regarding air pollution concerns in the Woodriver neighborhood (sub-region within the greater University West area).
- Request the Alaska Division of Public Health assess rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases at the local schools. Compare: Woodriver (affected) vs. Pearl Creek (minimally affected). Rates for the other schools would be useful in understanding the extent of impact. Data sources include: forms collected at each school to permit self-administration of medication such as asthma inhalers and asthma inhalers or other respiratory medicines retained by school nurses. The period of greatest smoke pollution impact appears to have been since the winter of 2007-08 to current.
- Nurses at all district schools should be directed to collect air pollution symptom data from students, just as was done during period of heightened awareness of H1N1. Statistics of these data should be made available to parents and the PTAs at each of the schools.
- District staff should asked to report air quality problems and symptoms to a designated person within each school so that appropriate recommendations, such as that they contact their health care professional, can be made. If the employee believes the problems are caused by workplace conditions, it is incumbant on the district to remind employees to file a workers’ compensation claim. Indoor safe working conditions are the responsiblity of the district, which is their employer, and the safety of district employees must be paramount. School district staff who raise concerns about indoor air quality and health impacts must be given protection as whistle-blowers. These are respected, dependable, effective, experienced employees we’ve entrusted with the education our children. We owe school district employees, as well as students, clean air in our schools.
- Work with the FNSB Air Quality Program office to establish a way to assess and alert schools on a timely basis for elevated PM 2.5 conditions. Local conditions may not always reflect what the FNSB website posting on the local air quality index shows. Air quality at Woodriver was reported as bad on days shown as “GOOD” on the borough site.
Protect students inside and outside the school at recess, field trips, & athletic events
- Inside: conduct a feasibility study to assess installing PM 2.5 air filtration and fans in affected schools. Current school filtration is not adequate. The filters need to be upgraded to higher MERV standards and the fan motors need to be replaced to provide increased back pressure needed to maintain airflow. We’ve heard the school maintenance dept. is working on this situation. We do not want to see only 25-30% of the PM 2.5 filtered out. Going back to do a second upgrade wastes time, money, & endangers public health at district schools. Consideration should be given to filtration adequate to eliminate at least 90% of the PM 2.5 particles. If building filtration is not affordable or timely for this winter, consideration should be given to the efficacy of installing individual room filters throughout the schools to reduce exposure levels for the upcoming winter.
- Outside: School District Policy on Unhealthy Particulate Levels 960.1 needs to be reexamined in light of the Air Quality Index cautionary statements and current health studies. Seek input from Alaska Division of Public Health. It is not safe to have currently healthy children exercising, indoors or out, at particulate levels that are “Unsafe for Sensitive Groups.” Greater precautions need to be taken to protect children and staff whose health is already compromised. Staff serving outside duty during the smoke season (Oct – May at least) should be offered an option to be fitted for personal air HEPA filtration masks to reduce harm to staff due to cumulative exposure to PM 2.5.