The record of harm to public health and history of inaction by the Department of Environmental Conservation at Woodriver Elementary School and neighborhood is chilling, and, to DEC’s acute shame, ongoing.
DEC’s Record of Inaction at Woodriver
April 13, 2009 DEC Compliance Letter 2009 PDF [48KB]
After “numerous air quality complaints” from Woodriver Elementary School and nearby residents “concerning significant amounts of smoke” produced by two outdoor wood boilers, DEC issued a compliance letter to the owner of two outdoor wood boilers. The compliance letter was copied to DEC managers including Jim Baumgartner, Air Permits Program, Juneau Jim.Baumgartner@alaska.gov (907)456-5108. One complaint, filed Jan. 12, 2009, reported two asthma attacks at Woodriver. A parent had requested the principal call DEC since her child was the second to be sent home that day due to an asthma attack. According to that complaint, the principal had “gotten used to smoke in the school and hadn’t noticed until the parent pointed it out.”
Nov. 18, 2009
The nurse at Woodriver Elementary School reported four children had asthma attacks that day and that “the woodsmoke was bothering students.” Clean Air Fairbanks reported on the asthma attacks endured by Woodriver Elementary students: Don’t Wait for another Asthma Attack at Woodriver.
Feb. 1, 2011 PM 2.5 Map for Woodriver Elementary & Watershed Charter in Fairbanks, Alaska
A map from data sampled by the FNSB sniffer vehicle of PM 2.5 concentrations near Woodriver Elementary School and Watershed Charter School.
March 10, 2011 DEC Nuisance Abatement Order 2011 PDF [100KB]
Nearly 2 years later, DEC issued, not another unenforceable letter, but an enforceable order. Still, no action has been taken to stop the smoke emissions.
March 24, 2011 Reported by an employee of Woodriver Elementary School . . .
Date: Thu, Mar 24, 2011 at 9:31 AM
We have a terrible smoke blanket covering the playground coming from across the street. There is a strong smoke smell in the entry way and the office. Several people, including myself are complaining of eyes burning.
Not the kind of “blanket” to wrap around a child.
After three winters of harm at Woodriver, DEC still has not requested a cease and desist order from a judge. Managers at DEC were informed of the “significant” smoke during the first winter of smoke in 2008/2009. Yet, the outdoor wood boilers continue to smoke as recently as of yesterday morning, March 29. Children are sent to school where they learn and play in smoke.
Prisoners of the smoke, children, teachers, and neighbors alike are held captive by the smoke emitter’s whim. The regular presence of woodsmoke through the neighborhood, on the playground, even in school hallways is accepted as “normal” and is not considered justification for enforcement. Enforcement is seen as too extreme and to be avoided at any cost.
The State is beginning to review evidence documenting harm. Victims have been asked to produce documentation such as medical reports attributing burning eyes, swollen lips and tongues, and asthma attacks as “proof” of the nuisance. All the while, the cause of the harm–the smoke emissions–is allowed to continue.
On DEC’s watch, a crime against humanity has occurred, with children the most innocent of victims. In DEC’s world, any amount of smoke is not a violation. Only after a body count has been amassed, long after the damage has been inflicted, does DEC consider the evidence possibly worth pursuing.
As DEC’s air quality division website states, “Clean air is essential to every breathing moment.” So why has the third winter gone by and still DEC has not stopped the smoke at Woodriver?
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