Archive for the ‘Residents Speak Out’ 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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In a bizarre presentation last night, attorneys for the defendants in the Woodriver case painted their clients as innocent victims. As a civil trial, all the defendants need is a majority of the jury. Scapegoating the state and manufacturer of the boilers may be all they need to get off if the case goes to trial. The trial is scheduled to begin September 16.

According to an attorney for Andrew and Gloria Straughn, the defendants in the Woodriver case:

“Even if the Straughns have some fault in this, other people including the manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer knowing these products, they share fault,” he said. “Where is the state of Alaska in defending the people from snake oil salesmen who are coming up here and selling them defective products.” Attorney says manufacturer, retailer share blame for wood boiler pollution 6/26/2013 FDNM

When asked, the attorneys wouldn’t answer who paid their fees. Likely it is Central Boiler, the manufacturer of the hydronic heaters. According to NESCAUM, Central Boiler has paid attorneys and given cash settlements to seal court records in other cases involving Central Boiler wood-burning boilers.

It is inappropriate for the Air Pollution Control Commission to enable a cowardly legal defense strategy designed to let Fairbanks’ most notorious smoke polluter off the hook.

Residents submitted a letter requesting the presentation be removed from the agenda. Commissioners ignored the request:

Link: 43 People Request APCC to Remove Attorney for Defendants in Woodriver Case from Agenda

Here is the news release on the letter:


Citizens Request Commissioners Remove Presentation by
Attorney for Defendants in Woodriver Case from their Agenda

Fairbanks, Alaska – June 25, 2013 – 43 citizens and organizations submitted a letter to a local air pollution commission requesting them to remove a presentation from their agenda. An attorney for the defendants in a highly publicized public nuisance air pollution case, often called the Woodriver case, is scheduled to give a presentation at the meeting later today.

According to the letter, the 15-minute presentation from Michael Walleri violates the powers and duties of the Air Pollution Control Commission.

The signers stated that there is no interest served by Mr. Walleri’s report other than to influence the outcome of the upcoming trial and bias the jury pool demanded by his clients.

It is the right of any citizen to speak for 3 minutes during Citizen Comments, but it is inappropriate to give special treatment and a platform to individuals established to have caused public nuisance air pollution, stated the signers in the letter. Link to 6/25/2013 APCC agenda.

In addition, the letter stated, the APCC should responsibly and “fully investigate nuisances, health hazards and other harmful effects” that led up to the Woodriver case, but that Mr. Walleri’s presentation does not constitute an “investigation” per FNSB Chapter 2.48.120.

Bethany Russell, who signed the letter, gave this statement:

“As a person raising a family in the Fairbanks-North Pole area, I am dismayed at our local government’s lack of concern for our air quality and our health. Children need to be able to breathe clean air in our schools and community.”

A copy of the letter was submitted to members of the Commission, Mayor Luke Hopkins, FNSB Transportation Director Glenn Miller, and FNSB Air Quality Specialist Dr. Jim Conner. Link to letter: 43 People Request APCC to Remove Attorney for Defendants in Woodriver Case from Agenda

Alaska v. Straughn was filed by the state of Alaska in Superior Court January 3, 2013 and is scheduled for trial September 16, 2013 at 8:00 am. A “Demand For Jury Trial” has been submitted on behalf of the Straughns. Case number 4FA-13-01205CI CourtView.

February 4, 2013, Judge Robert Downes ruled “the operation of the defendants’ outdoor wood boilers has proven to be a public nuisance.” Link to order by Judge Downes.

One of the attorneys representing the defendants in the case is Michael Walleri.

Andrew and Gloria Straughn have two outdoor wood boilers across the street from Woodriver Elementary School in Fairbanks. This is the state’s first public nuisance case against an owner of a hydronic heater, also called an outdoor wood boiler.

Agencies have received hundreds of complaints against the smoke from the Straughns’ burners. Link to 20 affidavits and other court documents.

Reporters may wish to ask Mr. Walleri how many doses of Albuterol he took after visiting Woodriver Elementary in 2011 and who pays his fees.


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TO: Catherine Cahill – APCC Chair <ffcfc@uaf.edu>
Lawrence K Duffy – APCC <fflkd@uaf.edu>
Gwen Holdmann – APCC <gwen.holdmann@alaska.edu>
Mark Sherman – APCC <mark@shermanengr.com>
Kathleen Hook – APCC <khook@doyonutilities.com>
Mayor Luke Hopkins <mayor@fnsb.us>
Glenn Miller – FNSB Transp Director <gmiller@co.fairbanks.ak.us>
Jim Conner – FNSB Air Quality Specialist <jconner@fnsb.us>

CC: Seth M Beausang – State of Alaska <seth.beausang@alaska.gov>
Commissioner Larry Hartig – DEC <larry.hartig@alaska.gov>
Alice Edwards – DEC Div of Air Quality <alice.edwards@alaska.gov>

FROM: Patrice Lee <patricelee3294@gmail.com>

SUBJECT: Request for removal of report by Michael Walleri from APCC agenda Tuesday, June 25

DATE: Monday, June 24, 2013

Dear Members of the APCC, Mayor Hopkins, Mr. Miller, and Dr. Conner:

We strongly request removal of the presentation by Michael Walleri from the June 25, 2013 Air Pollution Control Commission meeting agenda. Mr. Walleri is representing the defendants in the Woodriver case brought by the state of Alaska in January.

There is no interest served by Mr. Walleri’s report other than to influence the outcome of the upcoming trial and bias the jury pool demanded by his clients.

The purpose of the APCC is to control air pollution, not to serve as a platform for individuals established to have caused public nuisance air pollution. Judge Robert B. Downes already ruled in the February 4 preliminary injunction order “that the operation of the defendants’ outdoor wood boilers has proven to be a public nuisance.” [Link to order by Judge Downes.]

The defendants in the Woodriver case and their attorneys should feel welcome to speak during the Citizens Comments period, as is the right of any citizen. The APCC should responsibly and “fully investigate nuisances, health hazards and other harmful effects” that led up to the Woodriver case, but this report does not constitute an “investigation”. Giving special treatment and 15 minutes for this report is inappropriate and violates the powers and duties of the APCC per FNSB Chapter 2.48.120.

Following is the agenda item under New Business, Reports for the June 25 APCC meeting:

“Mike Walleri, attorney for defendant of State vs. Straughn, will update the APCC on current status of the litigation regarding the outdoor hydronic heaters in the Woodriver School area, 15 minutes presentation time.” From: http://www.co.fairbanks.ak.us/PublicNotices

We, the undersigned, respectfully request Mr. Walleri’s presentation be withdrawn from the June 25, 2013 APCC agenda.


Pam Miller, Executive Director, Alaska Community Action on Toxics

Delice Calcote, Executive Director, Alaska Inter-Tribal Council

Michele Herbert, Director, UAF Office of Sustainability, Cooperative Extension Service

Carrie Dershin, Citizens for Clean Air

Sylvia Schultz, Program Director, Clean Air Fairbanks

This letter is also submitted on the request of the following individuals who are residents of the Fairbanks North Star Borough:

Nancy Kuhn

Richard Clymer

Stephanie Clymer

Carl Benson

Patrice Lee

Krystal Francesco

Jean James

Michele Foley

Kayla Clark

Heidi Cambier

Nancy Viale

Don Pendergrast

Lynn Grover

Brandon Grover

Mackenzie D. Staiger

Tom Dolan

Leslie Dolan

P.J. Strawther

Joyce Potter

Nancy Rabener

Tom Stimpfle

Shalonda Riley

Putt Clark

Tami Seekins

Kimberly Good

Michael Riordan

Melissa Riordan

Patricia Seifert

Melissa Simpson

Glen Simpson

Robin Barker

Betty Flodin

Laura Palomino

David G. Hade

Martha Russell Hade

Kathleen Dubbs

Jacqueline D’Auria

Bethany Russell

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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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Letter to the Editor by Cheryl Beckley, North Pole, Subdivision issues 4/26/2013 FDNM

As I sat in on the borough Planning Commission’s meeting about the proposed residential neighborhood and elementary school in North Pole on Repp and Brock roads, I was left wondering. The school is desperately needed in North Pole, which we all agree on. But when pressed as to how to justify that particular location, seeing the air quality rivals that of Woodriver Elementary on its worst days, the commission backtracked and said, “Well, the school doesn’t have to go in there, we can wait on that.”

Then why is it OK to throw another 115 woodstoves over there? And 115 idling cars, at minimum?

If the site is a new school location — and I’ve seen the letters back and forth from the land management department to the school district to the platting board indicating its approval by all three — why then, when pressed about the health, safety and welfare of these kids and all of us neighbors, did the commission backtrack and say “Oh, we don’t need to put the school there.”?

Either this is for the school congestion solution or its bottom line is the borough making a profit off land sales regardless of the effect on the home sales market. Testimony from two independent realtors confirmed the North Pole market is behind by eight months. Who will buy these small, 1.2-acre parcels? They’ll just be destroying the forest over there at Brock and Repp (our only source of filtering this low-lying area’s air pollution) to have parcel after parcel sit empty and then still not build a school because the air quality in this particular location is horrendous. Or they’ll build these 115 homes and the school, and all of us will suffer the health issues.

We need a new school no doubt, but there is a huge amount of borough land on the Old Richardson Highway and Bradway that needs to be looked at, as it sits in a better type of geography for air flow. No, Brock is not the best place, health-wise, for the school. Let’s keep looking.

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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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A mother’s perspective on the cost of being poisoned from the smoke from burning wood and coal.

From: Krystal Francesco (Laurance Road, North Pole) [requested name be published]
Date: Sun, Jan 27, 2013 at 3:03 PM
Subject: Smoke
To: (66 DEC and borough agency staff, elected and appointed leaders)

FNSB Real-time image 386 µg/m3 at 8 am 1/27/2013

FNSB Real-time image 386 µg/m3 at 8 am 1/27/2013

Please see the attached photos.  I would love to have a meaningful response from any of you.  This is a public health risk.  I hear more and more about people who are getting asthma, people who are taking their young children to the doctor because of breathing problems, older people who are suddenly having breathing and heart problems that they never had before, people who have a nagging cough, etc.–the list goes on and the number of people affected.

I have a personal interest in this because of my daughter, who at the young age of 2 years, 5 months, has been on the following medications due to chronic breathing problems over her short lifetime: Albuterol inhaler, Flovent inhaler, Zyrtec, Flonase…that doesn’t include over the counter cough medicine.  I’ve had to start giving her all these since early 2012 morning and night to try and prevent ER visits.  This is when I noticed how horrible our air quality was.  I didn’t even need diagrams or pictures, I could SMELL the nasty fumes in the air, and how much my daughter was coughing.  We’ve gone to the ER over labored breathing (ie couldn’t catch her breath) at least 6-7 times last year ALONE, not to mention how many other times in 2011.

I, myself, have just gone today to the doctor’s to receive steroid and inhaler treatments due to a cough I’ve had since early Dec 2012.  My own mother has had terrible coughing fits this entire winter, starting in November of 2012, where she cannot catch her breath.  She is also on inhalers and steroid treatments.

One of the reasons for this is the fact one of our neighbors is clearly burning something than other dry, seasoned wood.  We can smell the toxic fumes, and see the black smoke with our own eyes.  Their smokestack is clearly too short as well, which doesn’t help it rise above house level and drifts into surrounding houses, where we breath it in day and night.  They live a merely 2 blocks away, right off the Richardson Highway on Laurance Road.  Who knows how many other people are burning trash, carcasses, tires, etc.

I would like an answer to the following question: WHAT IS GOING TO BE DONE ABOUT THIS VERY SERIOUS PUBLIC HEALTH RISK CAUSED BY COAL AND WOOD SMOKE, AND WHAT IS THE TIMELINE? Please do something about this; this is a borough-wide problem.  It is your job–all of you, regardless of what our boroughs laws are–to do something meaningful about this.  You all need to work together at the local and state level to save the public’s health–actually do something about this and stop just talking about it.  To do otherwise is a gross negligence of the some of the most important duties of your elected position. Please respond.  I want to protect my family’s health, but I do not want to have to move in order to do it (because of family and financial constraints), so I am looking to you whose job it is to help protect my family from public health hazards.

Krystal Francesco (also living with me are my parents) North Pole, AK

Also attached to the email: graph from 48 Days of Smoke in Rectangle of Death AK 99705 [Graph]

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