Update 1/16/2012: DEC declared this Air Quality Advisory at 11:30 am today: Air Quality Advisory UNHEALTY 2012-02 for Fairbanks and North POole areas Valid January 16 1130AM to January 17 2012 5PM. Glad to see it, typos included.
The Alaska Dept of Environmental Conservation hasn’t noticed they needed to declare an Air Quality Advisory because of dangerous PM 2.5 levels. Today, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, at the North Pole Elementary School, the average for the last 24 hours is 73 micrograms per cubic meter, with the latest reading of 170 µg/m3 at 7 pm. These levels are UNHEALTHY.
What is DEC’s excuse? No overtime.
DEC doesn’t pay its employees to work after hours on our air problem. State employees who monitor air quality for Fairbanks and North Pole live in Anchorage. This is a 3-day holiday weekend. This is not the first 3-day weekend when DEC has dropped the ball. A representative from DEC at a meeting Jan. 11, 2012 said DEC doesn’t work past 6 pm. That means not after 6 pm weekdays and not at all on weekends or holidays.
Tell DEC Commissioner Larry Hartig <firstname.lastname@example.org> to give DEC air monitoring staff overtime so they can do their job, even on weekends.
This is a matter of health. DEC should update Air Quality Advisories on weekends and respond to complaints promptly, even outside of regular working hours. Right now DEC inspectors should be heading out to North Pole to find the sources of the smoke. DEC should invite the Borough sniffer vehicle along to detect smoke in the dark.
Borough staff did their job today. At 4:30 pm, the Borough declared North Pole UNHEALTHY on http://co.fairbanks.ak.us/airquality. The Borough forecasts very poor dispersion conditions to continue through Tuesday. DEC will be back to work Tuesday.
Unfortunately, the FNSB Near-Real Time site underreports the current hour’s 170 µg/m3 levels in North Pole as only UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS.
DEC and the Borough should alert the local media, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, public safety officers, coaches, athletic groups, and school officials that residents need to take caution. Residents who are unusually sensitive to PM 2.5 should avoid exposure. Residents report PM 2.5 inside their homes even with multiple air cleaners running.
Many communities have PM 2.5 levels reported as an Air Quality Index. 73 µg/m3 of PM 2.5 converts to 155 AQI.
EPA Cautionary Statement for UNHEALTHY: People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly, and children should avoid prolonged exertion; everyone else should limit prolonged exertion.
EPA Health Effects Statement for UNHEALTHY: Increased aggravation of heart or lung disease and premature mortality in persons with cardiopulmonary disease and the elderly; increased respiratory effects in general population.