Posts Tagged ‘cherry-picking monitor data’

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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