Today, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation issued its second Air Quality Advisory of the season but has been unable to find a violation.
Link: DEC Air Quality Advisory 2011-20 Valid Nov 17-Nov 18, 2011 UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS
Watchful residents had no difficulty finding dense smoke plumes across from Woodriver Elementary School again today.
Do you live or work in the area or send your children to Woodriver? Don’t wait. Ask your state legislator for help:
Also, send your smoke complaints to DEC: link to complaint form. If possible, include the address of the smoke source and how you have been unreasonably nuisanced. If the smoke burns your eyes or makes you cough, say so! Attach photos, medical files, and complaint logs.
An Air Quality Advisory from Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation gives the state one enforceable tool: the 50% opacity safeguard for woodsmoke. The tool has never been used in the Fairbanks area.
A person may not operate a wood-fired heating device in a manner that causes
(1) black smoke; or
(2) visible emissions that exceed 50 percent opacity for more than 15 minutes in any one hour in an area which an air quality advisory is in effect under 18 AAC 50.245. [from 18 AAC 50.075(a)]
Who might be protected if DEC were to enforce the woodsmoke opacity safeguard? 450 children and 60 teachers at Woodriver Elementary and scores of nearby residents. In DEC’s March 10, 2011 Nuisance Abatement Order, DEC orders the owner of two outdoor wood boilers to “avoid operating the boilers…in a manner that causes its emissions to be a nuisance to humans.” In addition, the owner is to “avoid operating the boilers…in a manner that causes…visible emissions that exceed 50 percent opacity for more than 15 minutes in any one hour” during an Air Quality Advisory.
What is DEC waiting for? Fairbanks is tied for #4 worst fine particulate levels in the nation, see Time Magazine’s Ten Most Air-Polluted Cities in the US 9/29/2011. What good is a tool to protect life and safety if it’s never used?
In all other regards, DEC Air Quality Advisories are purely advisory. DEC offers suggestions to voluntary reduce “wood and coal burning” and that individuals in sensitive groups “reduce prolonged exertion.” No other health precautions at UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS are offered.
On days when DEC has no Air Quality Advisory, there’s no limit on dense woodsmoke; 100% woodsmoke opacity is not a violation. DEC’s Air Quality Advisory is the only tool in current law with any opacity limit for woodsmoke. The Borough also declares Air Quality Advisories, but they have no mandatory effect whatsoever.