A Fairbanks resident who lives on a street off Farmer’s Loop Road shared the following grim message.
The message was in response to an inquiry by an Alaska DEC employee. The DEC employee had just been assigned as the inspector for complaints filed “regarding wood smoke affecting you and your property.”
It is unconscionable that the health, property rights, and workplaces of borough residents continue to be assaulted by smoke from the irresponsible burning of wood and coal. Who will stop the damage?
———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Tue, Apr 5, 2011 at 10:03 PM
Subject: Re: wood smoke complaints
I appreciate your email. I have filed other complaints at various times with the Fairbanks North Star Borough because the level of smoke pollution has been making me sick, but the Borough seems unable to do anything, so I sent some complaints to the State as well. I am concerned about the smoke levels on my property and XXXXXXX Street because when the smoke settles in this area I am not able to walk around or do work on my property or walk down XXXXXXX Street without having to breathe in a lot of woodsmoke, and the amount of wood and coal smoke in the Fairbanks, North Pole, and Moose Creek areas where I live, work, and have had to do business this past fall and winter has been so extreme that it has been making me increasingly sick.
I ended up with fluid in my lungs and had to take antibiotics, but I had been having trouble with breathing the woodsmoke and had developed a productive cough from it (coughing up mucus, which I think is my body’s way of reacting when it is overwhelmed with smoke pollution) whenever I was exposed to it all winter long, which unfortunately was most of the winter. I have gotten very sick from the smoke levels in Moose Creek, in North Pole, in Fairbanks, and on my property in XXXXXXX Street. At times my lungs and throat and nose all have felt as though they were burning from the smoke, my nose was watering, and my eyes became very red, almost bloodshot, and were watering from the extreme smoke levels. The overall amount and strength of the smoke everywhere I had to be this winter was problematic for me, both the amount of exposure and the duration of exposure. It was impossible to escape without leaving town.
I have gotten sick sitting in my office in downtown Fairbanks several times when the air quality outside was in the “Unhealthy” category. I started coughing up mucus while sitting in my office because of breathing in the bad air. People in my office were afraid that I had pneumonia one time in February and brought cough drops in to give me, but I did not have fluid in my lungs then as I had just been to the doctor, it was just a reaction to the air pollution levels. I found out later that the office where I work brings “fresh” air in directly from outside as an air exchange requirement and there are no HEPA filters to filter out any of the air pollution particulates. I didn’t know that and had mistakenly thought that I had some protection from the outdoor air pollution when I was inside. After doing some research on my own, I ended up getting a HEPA filter for both my home and for my office towards the end of the winter because I realized that the toxic outdoor air pollution was getting inside in both locations and that my exposure was still high even though I was avoiding being outside as much as possible to try to keep from breathing the smoke.
I am not in one of the so-called “sensitive” groups and yet I got to the point where I could hardly walk because of the fluid in my lungs. I still have a cough and respiratory irritation from the smoke levels that I experienced earlier this winter and from the ongoing amounts of air pollution that I am still exposed to, even though the air is much better now because it has gotten warmer outside and there is less wood and coal burning going on. My respiratory system is still impacted from the bad air that I breathed in all winter long this past winter, my throat is still sore from coughing, and I am still coughing up mucus, especially when I have to breathe in areas where there is still noticeable smoke and burning. I should add that I have been a non-smoker all my life and have never even tried to smoke a cigarette because I did not think that my respiratory system would tolerate it. Obviously it would not, as this forced woodsmoke breathing has clearly demonstrated.
There have been a number of rental and other cabins that have gone in my neighborhood in the past few years, and many more people are burning with wood or whatever trash they may have on hand, so the smoke level has increased and was worse this winter than last winter in my neighborhood, but it seemed that it was worse about everywhere that I had to go in the Fairbanks, North Pole, and Moose Creek areas this winter, or else the cumulative effect of this woodsmoke exposure has begun to more seriously impact me.
The smoke is generally the worst in the evenings, during the night, and sometimes in the early morning. The times that I have gotten extremely sick have generally been in the evenings/night – 9:00 p.m. or later, although the unhealthy air quality levels did also make me sick in my office on several occasions, which was during the day. The very worst air seems to have been generally occurring in the evenings/at night/early in the morning, when there is more wood burning and/or smoldering going on. There are several rental cabins, one adjacent to my property that has sometimes been a problem, but which was unoccupied most of the winter this year, and one a XXXXXXXXX rental cabin on the other side of XXXXXXX and about halfway down. That cabin has been putting out a lot of smoke all winter that drifts across XXXXXXX Street and makes it very bad to walk out on the road or on that part of my property at all when the wind is blowing to the north. There are also a number of wood burning operations on the south side of XXXXXXX Street, and a number of wood burning operations to the west and north on both sides of Farmer’s Loop where the smoke drifts over onto my property. I have seen thick gray smoke coming out of several of these locations on different occasions, but most of the time during the winter when it is very smoky it is also in the evening/night and dark and it is very hard to see where the smoke is coming from, the smell just hangs thickly in the air.
I appreciate anything you can do to improve the air quality situation in the Fairbanks North Star Borough and on XXXXXXX Street.