[UPDATE 1/30/2013: FDNM article Residents concerned with air quality, plot size of Badger Road subdivision plan. What’s essential in choosing a site for a school? Health and safety. On Nov 18, 2012, Superintendent Pete Lewis wrote that Elbasan Acres should “…work well for a new elementary school….and could conceivably serve as a secondary school site….” Then gives his own ‘Heck of a job, Brownie’, “We appreciate the planning consideration and effort that went into this site development and commend you and the borough staff for the good work.” p 48 Assembly Full agenda packet]
How can the Borough fail to consider air pollution in selecting a school site?
The Borough has proposed an elementary school in the SE corner of the Elbasan Acres parcel. A pollution pit, see map below.
Blue Square Marks Elbasan Acres using 1-20-2011 FNSB Map for North Pole
The FNSB Platting Board will meet Wed, Jan 30 @ 6 pm Assembly Chambers to subdivide 634 acres of Borough land in North Pole for development. “Elbasan Acres,” a new housing development of 115 homes, would go into a low-lying area near Brock Rd/Repp Rd/Hollowell Rd. The new elementary school would be built on 56 acres of adjacent land at the NW corner of the Repp Rd/Hollowell Rd intersection.
Compare North Pole with Fairbanks on the same day, Feb 16, 2011.
Blue Square Marks Elbasan Acres using 2-16-2011 FNSB Map for North Pole
PM 2.5 Concentrations in the Fairbanks Bowl, Feb 16, 2011 from 10:17 AM, Fairbanks, Alaska
Borough maps confirm what residents of the area know: the air is thick with smoke. Adding new emission sources to a pollution pit is irresponsible. Choosing to locate a new elementary school in a pollution pit is even worse. It is inhumane to endanger the health and safety of future school employees and elementary students. Knowing the harm but going ahead anyway makes the Borough and School Board legally negligent and culpable. Future injured employees and elementary school parents on behalf of their injured children will be in a position to drain the Borough’s assets to recover costs and damages.
Before going further with plans for a major new subdivision and elementary school, the Borough should add the area to its sniffer vehicle routes. The current North Pole sniffer run goes by existing schools but not the proposed site for the new elementary school.
Smoke exposure can cause asthma, COPD, chemical sensitivity, heart disease, diabetes, strokes, blood clots, and many other problems. It is implicated as a factor in Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, ear infections, respiratory infections, pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, and influenza. It has been documented to lower IQ and to increase workplace absences, school sick days, hospitalizations, and deaths. Most of the studies have been on populations exposed to far lower levels than are common in neighborhoods here and have found a linear relationship between exposure and harm.
Blue Square Marks Proposed North Pole School Site
The proposed development falls just outside the PM 2.5 nonattainment boundary [link to nonattainment map]. Emissions from the development can be expected to flow into the nonattainment area, making meeting attainment more difficult. The closest monitor is the North Pole Fire Station.
Link 48 Days of Smoke in Rectangle of Death AK 99705 [Graph]
The Borough’s main interest is to develop the housing to offset costs of building the school. As a short-term budget scheme, it sounds like a winner. But adding new homes on top of the very stagnant real estate market in North Pole, with over a year inventory of unsold homes, will depress property values and sales yet further. Then toss in the concern that by the time the school is built, the need may no longer exist. Is a school still needed given the families relocating out of the area? This bad idea does not protect taxpayers, home sellers and buyers, teachers, or children.
Someone will say trust Alaska DEC to control the air pollution. Based on what evidence? DEC has filed a single case against a violator, the Woodriver landlords, not several as some believe. That case, 4FA-13-01205CI, may be followed on CourtView. DEC isn’t keeping the PM 2.5 nonattainment schedule; they failed to send EPA their plan to meet attainment that was due Dec 14, 2012. The state has no plan for reducing smoke pollution. Hope is not a strategy.
Borough planners may not have talked with the air quality division or seen the maps. Right hand, meet left hand. Well, they should. In 2009, EPA accepted a smaller nonattainment area than what they’d initially proposed, and now, utterly oblivious to health and safety, the Borough proposes development on the edge of the nonattainment boundary that will make meeting attainment and protecting public health more challenging than ever. If the development goes through, there will be a need to either control pollution outside the PM 2.5 nonattainment boundary or to enlarge the area, just as is needed in Moose Creek, Alaska.
The Jan 30 meeting was rescheduled from the regular Jan 16 meeting. The Platting Board is required to consider health and safety issues. Testimony is limited to three minutes per person except for the applicant.
For more information, please contact Jeanne Olson <firstname.lastname@example.org> 488-8800/488-2906.
Time for the Borough to take the long view instead of trying to squeeze revenue from their land when the North Pole housing market is saturated. Time to consider how this scheme risks the assets and holdings of the Borough as well as the health of elementary age children and their teachers.
Time to stop ignoring air quality, hoping a gust of wind will carry it away.
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