Archive for the ‘Local Air Quality’ Category

What you don’t know about Fairbanks’ air can hurt you.

When calling air alerts, the Borough considers only hourly PM2.5 measured at two monitors: the NCore at the FNSB Administration Building in downtown Fairbanks and the North Pole Fire Station on Hurst Road. Fairbanks monitors showing higher PM2.5 than downtown Fairbanks are ignored, then removed. In fact, every other PM2.5 monitor is ignored, regardless how high it reads.

When reporting air pollution to the public, FNSB and ADEC must stop cherry-picking monitor data to ignore neighborhoods with high PM2.5.

How can you speak up? Write an email:

  • Air agencies must stop ignoring Fairbanks monitors that have higher readings than the NCore monitor in downtown Fairbanks.
  • The Borough must stop removing monitors from Fairbanks and North Pole neighborhoods that show high PM2.5.
  • Tell them how air pollution has harmed you.

Send your email to:
FNSB Assembly assembly@co.fairbanks.ak.us
Mayor Karl Kassel mayor@fnsb.us
Kathleen Hook – APCC Chair khook@doyonutilities.com
Governor Bill Walker bill.walker@alaska.gov
Commissioner Larry Hartig – DEC larry.hartig@alaska.gov
Commissioner Valerie Davidson – DHSS davidson@alaska.gov
Commissioner Gary Folger – DPS gary.folger@alaska.gov
Administrator Dennis McLerran r10administrator-mclerran@epa.gov
Please send a copy to cleanairfairbanks@gmail.com

How does of ignoring monitors harm health in Fairbanks?

The NP Fire Station PM2.5 monitor frequently records levels categorized by EPA as “Unhealthy,” triggering numerous Stage 2 and Stage 3 burning requirements. From Jan 1 to Feb 11, 2016 for North Pole, agencies declared seven Stage 2 and eleven Stage 3 air alerts. When people know the air is polluted, they have a chance to take action.

During the same period for Fairbanks, agencies declared five Stage 2 and no Stage 3 air alerts. The NCore monitor at the Borough Admin Building in downtown Fairbanks uncommonly records elevated PM2.5 (mainly when North Pole Coffee Roasting Co discharges its putrid plume). Alerts are based on 24-hour averages, hiding higher hourly emission spikes.

What monitors should have been considered?

The Chena Pump monitor has recorded PM2.5 categorized as “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.” Monitors at Hamilton Acres and the Watershed School recorded Unhealthy but were removed by the Borough. The Dixon Road, North Pole monitor recorded PM2.5 higher than the NP Fire Station but was removed by the Borough.

How is my health harmed when monitors showing higher PM2.5 are ignored? 

When people don’t know their air is polluted, they have no chance to take change their behavior. When no Air Alert has been declared, residents don’t know schools and playgrounds may be unsafe or that breathing is life endangering. Athletic training and competitions are held not knowing high PM2.5 readings were ignored. Residents on the ridges or from out of town don’t know when the air is unsafe or when they need to stay away from Fairbanks. Solid fuel users keep burning because they don’t know health-based PM2.5 limits were exceeded.

Which agency ignores monitors?

Both. Borough Air Quality Forecast and ADEC Air Quality Advisories/ Episodes websites reflect data from only two monitors in the borough.

What are Stage 2 and Stage 3 heating device restrictions?

Stage 2: “Burning is permitted in all EPA-certified solid fuel burning appliances, and EPA Phase II qualified hydronic heaters with an annual average emission rating of 2.5 grams or less, masonry heaters, pellet fuel burning appliances, cook stoves, and fireplaces. No fuel source may be added to the combustions [sic] chamber or firebox of any solid fuel burning appliance or waste oil burning appliance not listed above.” Detailed description.

Stage 3: “No fuel source may be added to the combustions [sic] chamber or firebox of any solid fuel burning appliances, masonry heaters, pellet fuel burning appliances, cook stoves, fireplaces, or waste oil burning appliances.” Detailed description.

Are the agencies following the law?

No. A Stage 2 air alert is “implemented when concentrations exceed or are forecasted to exceed 35 µg/m3” and a Stage 3 air alert is “implemented when concentrations exceed or are forecasted to exceed 55 µg/m3” (FNSB Code 8.21.040 E).

When monitors show 24-hr concentrations over 30 µg/m3, 20% opacity limits, “shall be initiated at a 24-hour average concentration of 30 μg/m3 based on a 24-hr rolling average of the 1-hr BAM measurements” (SIP III.D.5.11-6). “BAM” monitors are the Borough’s real-time, hourly monitors. 20% opacity limits have never been publicized when 24-hr concentrations exceeded 30 µg/m3. (FNSB NOASH waivers do not apply to state opacity limits.)

Further, ADEC and FNSB “will declare” a PM-2.5 air quality advisory “if, in its judgment,” conditions exist that “might threaten public health” 18 AAC 50.246(b). PM2.5 threatens heath when 24-hr levels exceed 35.5 µg/m3, the Air Alert level set in the Alaska State Implementation Plan (SIP III.D.5.11-4).

It is not “judgment,” but bias, to call air alerts for North Pole while ignoring monitors with high PM2.5 in Fairbanks.

Which agency is at fault?

Both. The state delegated responsibility on area sources to the Borough (ADEC-FNSB MOU for Air Pollution Control 2010). Yet, both must follow the laws and regulations. The Clean Air Act “states that the SIP must provide necessary assurances that, where the State has relied on a local government for the implementation of any plan provision, the State has responsibility for ensuring adequate implementation of such plan provisions” (SIP III.D.5.12-1).



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Visit links below for monitor PM2.5 data. Two monitors now online.

NM-1 CCA Neighborhood Monitor T24951 – Hamilton Acres, Fairbanks, AK  Start Date: 12/21/2015, Lat, Long: 64.846884 -147.678081

CCA Hamilton Acres Neighb Monitor

NM-2 CCA Neighborhood Monitor T24954 Borough Admin Center, Fairbanks, AK  Start date: 2/25/2016 (was collocated with NM-1 from 2/9 to 2/25/2016)

Monitors operated by: Citizens for Clean Air
Equipment: Met One Neighborhood Monitor

Help Citizens for Clean Air move as fast to purchase and install monitors in hot zones, by supporting the CCA Monitoring Project – click button below:

Donate button image

To donate by mail, send check to:
CCA Monitoring Project
607 Old Steese Hwy Ste B PMB 118
Fairbanks, AK 99701-3163
Please note on your check “Monitoring Project.”

Citizens for Clean Air is raising money to purchase monitors to improve PM2.5 pollution monitoring and protect health and safety. Donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. Donors can give any amount. For more information, contact Patrice Lee: patricelee3294@gmail.com, 907-799-9580

Met One manufactures the BAM 1020, approved in 2008 as a Federal equivalent method by EPA. Thousands of BAM 1020 continuous PM2.5 monitors are in use, including at the US Embassy in Beijing and visible here: AQICN World. FNSB has five BAM 1020s online, see Real-Time Monitoring. The Met One Neighborhood Monitor is a new and inexpensive PM2.5 sensor that monitors PM2.5 at 15-minute increments and makes data available immediately on the “Cloud.”

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Update: Success! A week after this post, the Borough fixed the Near-real Time site. No explanation why it took years. Thank you to all who pressed the Borough to correct this problem.

UNHEALTHY in Fairbanks and North Pole again today.

Fairbanks North Star Borough advises it is UNHEALTHY but has only voluntary recommendations.

EPA says local air pollution is highest in the nation today. 155 AQI converts to PM2.5 of 62.3 µg/m3. EPA AQI to Concentration Calculator.

Nation's Highest AQI 1/27/2015  http://www.airnow.gov

Nation’s Highest AQI 1/27/2015 http://www.airnow.gov

But, oops! The State forgot to issue an Air Quality Advisory until noon.

Eventually, an Air Quality Advisory was declared as UNHEALTHY for Fairbanks and North Pole AQA #2015-09. However, it failed to mention the State’s new opacity rule — at 24-hour concentrations over 30 µg/m3, State regulations prohibit smoke opacity greater than 20% for any wood heating appliance in the FNSB nonattainment area. Submitted to EPA: Final SIP, 12/24/2014, III.D.5.7-8, III.D.5.11-6. The State told EPA but why don’t they tell local burners about the new opacity rules?

2015-01-27 BAC Moderate 68

1/27/2015 at 1 pm BAC USG  http://co.fairbanks.ak.us/airquality/AQNearRealTime.aspx

Borough “Near-real Time” hourly warnings show yellow for MODERATE when hourly PM2.5 was 68.

Then, as current air conditions worsened, “Near-real Time” became orange for UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS when hourly PM2.5 was 83.

The “Near-real Time” site confuses the public by failing to provide current hourly PM2.5 information based on 24-hour exposure at that level. Table: EPA Air Quality Index for 24-hour PM2.5. The FNSB hourly site has underreported health danger since its inception.

When will FNSB listen to Dermot?

The borough reporting system does not follow the national pattern. But it should.

The borough includes this disclaimer, “When calculating Air Quality Index Level on Near-Real-Time Data, the average PM2.5 for a one hour time frame is used. Since the EPA doesn’t have index levels for the average one hour time frame, the levels indicated on this web page are calculated as if the one hour average PM2.5 were the peak value in an average 24 hour period with normally distributed emissions.”

The problem is that the hourly reports are not necessarily the daily peak levels.

While it is true that EPA does not have a one-hour standard, it is also true that cities across the country are reporting the one-hour figures and making a statement about air quality and health based on 24-hour exposure at that level.

I have asked borough officials and state officials to address this problem and adopt the reporting system that is in use in the rest of the nation.” Dermot Cole, FDNM 12/1/2012.

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Fairbanks Bowl, PM2.5 Pollution Accumulates under Inversion, 11/20/2013 3:43 pm

Fairbanks Bowl, PM2.5 Pollution Accumulates under Inversion, 11/20/2013 3:43 pm

Fairbanks and North Pole air pollution was worst in the nation again yesterday.

If you’re looking for Beijing-grade air pollution, save the airfare. Yesterday, you could find air nearly as dirty in North Pole, Alaska.

Nov. 20, 2013, 24-hour average PM2.5 and hourly range:

North Pole, Alaska, US UNHEALTHY, 71 micrograms/cubic meter, range 32 to 116
>> Source: FNSB North Pole Fire Station on Alaska DEC Air Monitoring Network
How to use Alaska DEC Air Monitoring Network Real-time Monitoring

Beijing, ChinaUNHEALTHY, 77.6 micrograms/cubic meter, range 19 – 144
>> Source: Beijing Air Twitter Feed

Other monitors on Nov. 20, 2013:

  • Watershed School, Fairbanks, US – UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS, 50 micrograms/cubic meter, range 24 to 108
  • FNSB Administrative Building, Fairbanks, US – MODERATE, 35 micrograms/cubic meter, range 17 – 49
  • Tulare, San Joaquin Valley, California, US – MODERATE, 28 micrograms/cubic meter, range 8 to 45 (Highest in US other than the three monitoring sites in Fairbanks North Star Borough.)

Making sense of the numbers: EPA Air Quality Index Chart, 2013

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A letter sent to Clean Air Fairbanks <cleanairfairbanks@gmail.com> today:


Dear Governor Parnell and (Alaska DEC) Commissioner Hartig,

I am writing to ask you to do everything in your power to help alleviate the air pollution problem in Fairbanks. Our whole family has been affected by the pollution. Our youngest child has congenital heart defects, requiring tremendously expensive open-heart surgeries to correct. We cannot take him into town when the pollution is worse than “Moderate”. He can’t go to school or church.  I must stay at home with him and cannot go to work. Our income has dropped as the price of fuel has gone through the roof.  We have never been in such a bad financial situation. Now, our neighbors have bought a coal burner and the smoke and smell are overwhelming. We have lived here for 35 years, and now we must make plans to leave unless something is done to stop people who are polluting other people’s property/air. The rest of the family has developed coughs, chronic bronchitis, and severe headaches when working or trying to shop in town.

Yesterday, I was told of a local family who collects the clothes at the transfer site and burns them to heat their home.  I checked into this, and it is apparently, sadly, true. How could this happen in the richest state in the nation, in the richest nation in the world? Another man in North Pole, whom we have witnessed, installs carpet. He takes the carpet he removes and burns it in his hydronic boiler.  The chemicals coming off this burn are hideous for people’s health.  He doesn’t care and has not stopped that I am aware of.  We can’t go on with no enforcement.

More devices burning wood and “anything that will burn” will mean more pollution, even if some of those devices have lower emissions.  I am quite sure that many of the devices purchased through the Alaska Resource Agency (Rep. Tammie Wilson obtained funding for this group that she has been working with for years) have added greatly to the pollution of the area.  In a sense, the state has paid to pollute us!

What we need is affordable fuel oil until natural gas is IN PLACE.  Dedicating more money on more and more wood/coal/whatever-burning devices is a waste of money!  Burning causes the pollution.

Please, we need help to have clean air to breathe and before  North Pole and Fairbanks’ reputations are so tarnished that no one will want to come here, live here, or start a business here.


The Lee Family

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Labrenz Landscaping, Inc. 2759 College Road, Fairbanks, Alaska [link: Google street view]

Labrenz Landscaping wood-burning hydronic heater, 11 am on 5/9/2013

Labrenz Landscaping, wood-burning hydronic heater, 11 am on 5/9/2013

Received by Clean Air Fairbanks:

To: cleanairfairbanks@gmail.com
CC: news@kuac.org, cole@newsminer.com
Date: Fri, May 10, 2013 at 12:01 AM
Subject: May 9 Fumigation

This was Labrenz Landscaping on College Road today (May 9) around 11 AM.  There was a person waiting at the bus stop in the midst of this pollution from this outdoor wood hydronic heater. I didn’t stay around long to take more pictures, because the smoke from the was making my throat burn. Evidently there is an active case file at DEC on their hydronic heater, but things are clearly not getting better. Ironically, the smoke was wafting right across College Rd. to the parking lot of the Woodway. Could you imagine if the Farmer’s Market was open today? Public Health would need to set up a nebulizer station right next to the potted perennials and kettle corn.

I know that winter has lasted particularly long this year, but must the air quality hazards continue too?  How is it OK for local businesses and homeowners to continue to smoke out their neighbors?

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de·fi·ant adjective : full of or showing defiance : bold, impudent <defiant rebels> <a defiant refusal>

5055 Palo Verde Ave 2013-02-05

5055 Palo Verde Ave, Fairbanks, Alaska on Feb 5, 2013 @ 11:33 am

On Feb 4, 2013, Judge Robert Downes granted the state’s motion for a preliminary injunction, see CourtView case 4FA-13-01205CI.

Indeed, the Straughns’ attorney has said the state’s injunction prevents the Straughns from operating the outdoor wood boilers, and they have shut them down, most likely for the season. This is according to Kim Murphy, LA Times correspondent comment on Scorched Weekend: Woodriver Polluter Smokes it Up.

Then, why is their boiler still smoking Feb 5, 2013 at 11:33 am?

Further, do instrumented “sniffer” vehicle maps from the Borough pinpoint the boilers’ smoke? Click on the images to enlarge.

School sniffer 2013-02-05

FNSB "sniffer" map 2013-02-06

FNSB “sniffer” Map 2013-02-06

Another witness in the neighborhood reported to Clean Air Fairbanks “putrid” smoke from the Straughns’ boilers on Feb 6 and again today, Feb 12. The resident sent a complaint about the Straughns’ Feb 6 smoke that same day to Governor Sean Parnell, Commissioner Larry Hartig, Senator Click Bishop, and Representative Pete Higgins.

Did the court’s Feb 4 preliminary injunction prohibit operation of the boilers? Did the injunction take effect by Feb 5 or Feb 6, or as late as today, Feb 12? If so, Andrew and Gloria Straughn may be in contempt of court.

What could make these landlords defiantly disregard the health of their neighbors and a court order?

Is padding the bank account with a few more bucks really worth it?

Or is this an example of getting in the last licks?

Only the court documents will tell.

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