Archive for the ‘Coal Burning Appliances’ Category

Recent FNSB releases of public records disclose 1,034 complaints since 2008.

Cruel air pollution this winter:

COAL: “Someone in our neighborhood is burning coal I believe, it’s a horrible smell coming into our home causing everyone to have headaches. I also have premature twin infants and do not want this to affect their health. We have air purifiers going in our house but the smell is very strong. Thank you.”

COFFEE: “This company has piped burnt coffee pollution in the air for over 2 years. The burning particulates get in your eyes and lungs. My 75 year old mother is constantly sick from the odor. She has lived in her home for 57 years and has respiratory illness from it. The pollution is so prevalent that you can breathe it up to 6 or 7 miles from the company. Many families complain to the state and the borough to no avail. The owners live far from their burning odors and are not responsive to the calls complaining about this pollution. It is not just an odor it is making my mother sick. Please respond. When the weather is very cold the inversion layer keeps the pollution locked in the greater Fairbanks City area. Please respond. Thank You.”[Previous to filing this complaint, complainant had contacted the state and was advised by ADEC to complain to FNSB. When complainant did so, FNSB “assigned” case to ADEC, saying “Odor violates State Regulation 18 AAC 50.110.” Is it air pollution or a hot potato?]

WOOD BOILER: “This outdoor hydronic heater is used to heat the greenhouse where the owner grows flowers for sale. He told me 2 years ago that his neighbor has complained to him but nobody else. He is some 500 feet from Ticasuk Brown School. I took this photo yesterday as I drove around my neighborhood looking for contributors to my terrible air quality. The smell from his burner took my breath away.”[FNSB measured 2,126 µg/m3, highest ever recorded.]

TRASH: “Neighbor burns trash every Tuesday between 3-6pm, has been going on all summer but now trying to shovel and has asthma and smoke has become unbearable. Not sure which neighbor.”

COAL AND WOOD: “I was right at the corner of the Steese Hywy South of Curry’s Corner and the Post Office. My eyes burned, by skin was irritated and I had some labored breathing after being down there. I wear a mask to pick up my mail now. I know it’s not healthy to be down there and the postal employees should be interviewed because they have made serious comments. I don’t feel comfortable commenting for them but someone should ask them.”

VEGETABLE OIL: “This has been an ongoing issue, the fumes are noxious and potentially dangerous.It smells like chemicals, or wires burning…. Sometimes accompanied by dark smoke coming out of a pipe protruding from the front of the “shop.” Can you please look into this issue?”

COFFEE: “Putrid, disgusting odor of burnt rubber or other material having been cooked to the point of being scorched being pervasive in the windless, downtown area this morning when I was there in and out of my vehicle, between 8:30 am and 10:30 am in the area of Gaffney Rd. and as I was going toward the downtown post office and then along the Chena River on First Avenue toward the Carlson Center….”

UNKNOWN: “We are regularly, subjected to a very strong odor of burning material, I think it is coal smoke. The odor is so strong that it is present inside our office building when all doors and windows are closed. It causes irritation of the nose and eyes.”

WOOD BOILER: “There is an outdoor boiler located behind this residence. It is can be accessed off of Skyline. It is the first driveway on the left after the Skyline/Summit Intersection. The property owner has been harvesting green wood from the front of his property. When the outdoor boiler is fired the smell and smoke covers the neighborhood. He does not seem to run it consistently, but when it is burning the pollution levels are high. We moved specifically into this area of town to avoid the air pollution problems of the valley. This boiler has been installed since our move 5 years ago. We have great health and welfare concerns. This area has an extensive network of trails and is an area used by runners, bikers, and skiers. Last week we were on an early morning walk and the smoke was so thick and dense that we could hardly breathe. This boiler has introduced a hazard to the health and well being of all the residents in the entire area. We would appreciate your investigation into this situation and your advice on what recourse we have as concerned neighbors. You will note that I did not put an event end, as it is ongoing whenever the boiler is fired.”

WOOD BOILER: “In order to make this air quality complaint actually go through I just filled in the start date and time [ongoing pollution]. The people being affected are in the Volunteer Fire Fighter Residence behind the Fox Transfer Site. The smoke has been bad, sometimes it’s worse than other times. I am a young person who has started to have cardiac symptoms. An EKG suggested that I was experiencing repolarization of my heart conductivity. That is a bad thing to be happening and not what should happen to a young, otherwise healthy person. I have had a work smoke exposure the summer of 2015 and now have been living in this smoke during the winter of 2015-16. I will try to find another place to live. Please investigate this area. We will also attempt to find help monitoring.”

COAL: “The house 2 doors down to the right of me has excessive coal smoke blowing thru our front yard causing headaches and nausea whenever I open the front door. I have a young son who cannot play outside.”

Ongoing, “putrid” air pollution:

FNSB air quality complaint records undercount concerns about air pollution. Many complaints are for air pollution that has gone on for years. Complainants may have given up due to lack of agency response. Individuals may be injured by air pollution, yet never file a complaint.

In 2015, FNSB terminated its online complaint form, diverting all complaints to ADEC’s statewide air quality complaint webform: https://dec.alaska.gov/Applications/Air/airtoolsweb/Complaints

Some complainants identified the air pollution source by address; many do not or cannot. Complainants described conditions that make source identification difficult: darkness, infiltration into homes, workplaces, or schools, and all-pervasive ambient air conditions.

Complainants were often referred to ADEC, that with one exception (Alaska v. Straughn) has taken no enforcement action. Many received no follow-up communication. ADEC passed a problem burner to FNSB who “assigned” it back to ADEC like a hot potato. Complaints have been assumed to be “personal” conflicts until multiple individuals complained about a single source address.

Complainants frequently were about smoke from wood stoves, hydronic heaters (boilers), and coal. Complaints were about North Pole Coffee Roasting Co. (1502 Minnie St, Fairbanks), Justa Store (446 Old Chena Pump Rd, Fairbanks), and Labrenz Landscaping Inc. (2759 College Rd, Fairbanks).

Complaints were from inside the Fairbanks PM2.5 nonattainment area and outside, including Moose Creek (a mile outside nonattainment boundary), Harding Lake area, and Chena Hot Springs Road corridor.

Complaints occurred at all times of year, not only in winter months.


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Burning Alaska coal in coal stoves, furnaces, and boilers is highly polluting and likely violates device manufacturer warranty.

“A bit of research revealed that many coal stoves currently in use and available for sale in Alaska are not designed nor certified for low quality coal such as Usibelli’s. Many of the most popular indoor coal stoves available here were manufactured back east and were designed and certified for use with their low-moisture, high heating-value anthracite coal. Burning inferior coal in a stove designed and certified for anthracite even once invalidates any warranty and could compromise any insurance claim involving damages caused by misuse.” Russ Maddox, Alaska Dispatch, 11/5/2013 Alaska’s inferior coal should never be called ‘clean’

Read the “bit of research” here: CAF Report: Alaska Heating Coal may Violate Manufacturer Fuel Use Requirements

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is proposing to approve “coal” and “coal pellets” for coal heaters in the Fairbanks PM2.5 nonattainment area regardless of manufacturer warranty or UL certification. The report recommends steps to address the statewide safety risks from burning high-moisture Alaska coal in heating devices.

Related coverage:

Burn the right fuel correctly Seward City News 10/28/2013

State urges caution with wood, coal stoves FDNM 10/26/2013

Heating with Alternative Fuels Can Be Dangerous Media Release, Alaska Fire Marshal 10/25/2013

Residents Raise Coal Burning Concerns Seward City News 9/17/2013

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Clean Air Fairbanks today released a new report:

CAF - Alaska Heating Coal may Violate Manufacturer Fuel Use Requirements

Alaska Heating Coal may Violate Manufacturer Fuel Use Requirements: Safety Risks from Burning High-moisture Alaska Coal

>>Link to PDF here

Summary: Coal stoves are typically designed for coal types not available in Alaska. The moisture content of Alaska coal is high relative to other types of coal. High-moisture coal burns with higher emissions and carries a far higher risk of explosions, chimney fires, and structure fires.

“Improper use and the failure to follow manufacturer guidelines can result in a disaster for the occupants of the home,” states a recent warning from the Division of Fire and Life Safety of the Alaska Department of Public Safety. “Only use a grade of coal that is recommended by the manufacturer of your heating equipment and do not put coal in a heating device that is not recommended to burn coal. Make sure that your wood or coal burning stove has been tested and approved by a third party testing laboratory such as UL.”

UL certification of heating devices is limited to fuels approved by the manufacturer. To load a stove with improper fuel‒even just one time‒voids the warranty and UL certification. UL certification is in the fine print of insurance policies, mortgage agreements, leases, and other contracts pertaining to property and liabilities.

However, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has proposed to approve “coal” and “coal pellets” for coal heaters in the Fairbanks PM2.5 nonattainment area.

The report offers recommendations to address the statewide safety risks from burning high-moisture Alaska coal in heating devices.

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Snooki Waltzing into a Pickle

In a comedy of errors, Rep Tammie Wilson waltzed state legislators into a pickle.

“Get a wood or coal boiler, like, with a state loan! Oops! Silly me! Forgot ’bout your gnarly air pollution. I mean, whatEVER! PURIFY the air with wood and coal boilers! Cut! Where’s my pickle? Ah, got it.” [plastic smile]

Representative Tammie Wilson (R-North Pole) introduced HB 35, Home Heating Conversion Loans, to offer homeowners $15,000 10-year, 1% interest loans to assist in converting to natural gas if that fuel becomes “available.” Problem is the details were left intentionally vague.

Barn door opens: statewide stampede of wood and coal boilers ensues.

$15,000 loans with E-Z terms for any type of heating system — including a Titan 2 coal boiler — will dash all hope of reducing air pollution in Fairbanks and North Pole and of meeting federal Clean Air Act standards for PM 2.5 attainment.

HB 35 is public health sabatoge.

Contact your Legislators:

  1. Tell them to oppose or amend HB 35, Home Heating Conversion Loans to prevent state loans from funding more wood or coal boilers.
  2. Support conversions to natural gas heaters but not more wood or coal boilers.
  3. Tell them why air pollution is a matter of life and safety for you.
  4. Also, please voice your support for funding for existing, positive programs including the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation and the Alaska Division of Public Assistance Heating Assistance Program [details below]

Contact Emails – share your concerns with all:

HB 35 sponsors:
Rep Tammie Wilson – House 2 <Representative.Tammie.Wilson@akleg.gov>,
Rep Steve Thompson – House 3 <Representative.Steve.Thompson@akleg.gov>,
Rep Pete Higgins – House 5 <Representative.Pete.Higgins@akleg.gov>,
Rep Doug Isaacson – House 1 <Representative.Doug.Isaacson@akleg.gov>,
Rep Scott Kawasaki – House 4 <Representative.Scott.Kawasaki@akleg.gov>,
Rep Mia Costello – House 20 <Representative.Mia.Costello@akleg.gov>
Rep Beth Kerttula – House 32 <Representative.Beth.Kerttula@akleg.gov>
Rep Peggy Wilson – House 33 <Representative.Peggy.Wilson@akleg.gov>
Rep Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins – House 34 <Representative.Jonathan.Kreiss-Tomkins@akleg.gov>

One member of the Interior Delegation has not sponsored HB 35:
Rep David Guttenberg – House 38 <Representative.David.Guttenberg@akleg.gov>

Please share your message with <cleanairfairbanks@gmail.com> and others. Link: Officials Email Addresses

HB 35: Any Fuel, No Matter How Polluting

HB 35 loans will fund a “coal, wood or an outdoor boiler,” according Marissa Banks, legislative aide for Rep Doug Isaacson.

A tire-burning boiler could be accepted as long as it was “more efficient” than an existing system. The truth is, nothing in HB 35 or in state law prohibits burning tires, manure, animal carcasses, plastic, and creosote-treated power poles in a boiler. State regulations prohibit open burning #@*&, but not if you burn it in your boiler. Only after someone gets hurt is the burning of #@*& prohibited. Toxic smoke put you in the hospital? Ask DEC to file a public nuisance case and wait 4 1/2 years, just like Woodriver, the state’s first public nuisance case on smoke.

Any fuel or heating system will be accepted under HB 35 — no matter how polluting. Wood and coal boilers emit significantly more air pollution than other whole house heating systems using fuel oil, natural gas, or propane.

Estimated Pounds of PM 2.5 Released Each Year by Appliance Type — pellet and wood stoves are not generally used for central (whole house) heat

No neighborhood is safe. HB 35 applies statewide. Fairbanks and North Pole are the only areas in Alaska in violation of the federal Clean Air Act for fine particulate pollution (PM 2.5).

$15,000 is about double what you’d expect to pay to install a high-efficiency oil or gas furnace or boiler. The maximum loan, $15,000, is right in line with the cost of an outdoor wood or coal boiler. Is that why the loan cap is on steroids? [Compare costs for high-efficiency gas and fuel oil systems here.]

Rep Tammie Wilson (R-North Pole)

TWISTED Logic, False Promises

Rep Wilson offered legislators a panacea for better air: “An additional benefit of HB 35 will be the program’s effects on a community’s air quality…. By converting to cleaner heating systems, such as natural gas, the FNSB will be able to apply the loan program of HB 35 towards their required EPA state implementation plan to mitigate the existing air quality concerns.” [emphasis added] Rep Wilson Sponsor Statement for HB 35.

If YOU believe EPA signed off on this plan to “mitigate” serious air pollution with more wood and coal boilers, I have a bridge to sell you!

In describing her bill to the public, Rep Wilson adroitly omitted mentioning wood and coal boilers. “I could see people looking to doing gas, and you could be looking at people where it’s not available going to more efficient oil, biomass or even wood pellet heaters.” Rep. Wilson proposes heater conversion bill 1/25/2013 FDNM

No Efficiency Standard for Wood, Pellet, or Coal

HB 35 uses an “energy rater” to “determine whether improving or replacing the primary heating system of the home would increase the energy efficiency of the home.” This works when comparing gas or oil units. But as there’s no accepted standard for reporting the efficiencies of wood, coal, or pellet stoves or boilers, there’s no way to make an efficiency determination involving a wood, pellet, or coal device.

Efficiency of a gas or oil central heater is measured by annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). The Federal Trade Commission requires new furnaces or boilers to display their AFUE so consumers can compare heating efficiencies of various models. Manufacturers of wood, coal, and pellet heating systems may tout energy efficiency, but there is no accepted standard for measuring their efficiency.

Manufacturers will say anything

Breakthrough Performance… redefines the meaning of high-efficiency heating – converting up to 89% of the energy in wood fuel to usable heat in your home.”

Less Work. Designed with you in mind, there is no need to split wood; high temperatures in the firebox eliminate build-up and reduce ash to amounts that require attention just once a month.” [Where did those pesky particles go?! Out the chimney!]

Our Vision is…”zero visible emissions and reduced volatile organic compounds from the combustion of solid biofuels.”

Save you up to 80% of your current heating bill…proven to be efficient.”

yields an amazing  87% thermal efficiency

Coal is the Goal, Not Energy Efficiency

Rep Wilson offered two similar bills in 2012. Neither passed.

The first, HB 313, would have provided $7,500 low-interest loans that could include “biomass” heating devices. The 2013 bill removed all restrictions on fuel type as long as it is “available.” FDNM coverage on HB 313: House critical of bill to offer grants for non-attainment home heating upgrades 3/22/2012 & Bill that would provide loans to help convert home heating systems 4/5/2012.

The second, HB 323, proposed $10,000 grants to homeowners in “a particulate matter nonattainment area” [FNSB is the only nonattainment area in Alaska] to install more efficient oil or gas heating systems and includes a definition of “efficient home heating system.” The 2013 bill does not include any definitions.

Positive Programs Worthy of Your Support

In the 2013 Capital Budget, Governor Sean Parnell requested over $50 million for the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, see Capital Budget SB 18. $20 million would fund home energy rebates up to $10,000 with no income limits. $31.5 million more would fund weatherization grants for homeowners and renters, free for those at or below income limits of $80,400 for FNSB household of 4. These smart programs improve the efficiency of the entire home, rather than just dropping a more efficient heating system into a house that leaks like a sieve.

Alaska Division of Public Assistance Heating Assistance Program: it is not clear that funding has been proposed to continue this program in 2013. High heating costs most significantly impact low-income residents.

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3614 Laurance Rd, Fairbanks, Alaska on Feb 14, 2013 05.53 pm

3614 Laurance Rd, Fairbanks, Alaska on Feb 14, 2013 05.53 pm

3614 Laurance Rd, North Pole, Alaska on Feb 14 2013

3614 Laurance Rd, North Pole, Alaska on Feb 14 2013

From: Krystal Francesco (Laurance Road, North Pole) [requested name be published]
Date: Thu, Feb 14, 2013 at 10:17 PM
Subject: Boiler/Hydronic heater in North Pole
To: (60 DEC and borough agency staff, elected and appointed leaders and others – see below)


I have attached pictures of a potential coal burning boiler/hydronic heater.  Maybe some of you can shed light on what this really is.  I can tell you what it smells like — pure toxic waste.  This is located at 3614 Laurance Road, also known as the Kids of the Kingdom Learning Center, an in-home daycare.  Not only is it horrible they could potentially be burning coal, but they’re doing it around young kids.  Driving toward it, the smell got so strong I had to hit the “re-circulate” button in my car so I wasn’t struggling to breathe.  Whatever I was smelling, it was NOT any kind of wood smell.  I can’t say I know what burning coal smells like…but I know I couldn’t stand to breathe the air around this contraption.

The other dilemma is the height of the smoke stack — it’s not even on top of the roof, so the smoke is easily able to drift into other houses surrounding the area when there is a breeze.  I strongly believe this is one of the main reasons my family (myself, my mother and my daughter) are on inhalers day and night.  Tonight, oddly enough, my daughter is beginning to show signs of labored breathing…I can’t tell you how many times this has been so far.  Her heartbeat is fast while resting, and her stomach is moving in and out at a speed faster than normal.  This is after using her inhalers and allergy medicine, which she uses EVERY day and night.

Something needs to be done about those who use machines like this, who burn coal especially.  Do the research, it’s clear the fumes from burning coal is horrible to peoples’ health.  Some might think they can “burn clean,” but that’s an oxymoron.  There’s no way you can burn coal responsibly, or without dire consequences over time.  I’ve heard of people saying “well, I don’t see smoke coming out of my smoke stack so that means I’m burning clean.”  But have they actually tested the air quality around their house??  Probably not.

For my family’s sake, my 2.5 year old daughter’s health, please…we need to take action to shut down machines like this that are spewing toxic waste into the air we breathe.

Krystal Francesco

Sent to:


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Coal smoke may be the #1 source of toxic air pollution in your neighborhood if you live in Fairbanks or North Pole.

The components of wood smoke are very similar to second-hand cigarette smoke, and equally hazardous to our health. Fine particle pollution is associated with a host of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, as well as higher overall death rates.” — Jack Broadbent is executive officer of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Marin Independent Journal 2/02/2013

>> Link Dr Oz: Wood Smoke “much more carcinogenic than cigarette smoke”

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Slides presented by Dr. Alan Lockwood, MD, for his talk “Toxic Threat – Coal and Your Health” given Feb 15, 2012:

Link: Lockwood: Toxic Threat – Coal and Your Health presentation slides

Also, here is the FDNM article on Dr. Lockwood’s presentation in Fairbanks Expert and author on coal and health is in Fairbanks 2/16/2012.

For more about Dr Lockwood and his presentation, visit previous post Public Lecture: Toxic Threat – Coal and Your Health.

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