Much is going on locally to better understand and improve our air pollution problem:
Fairbanks Home Heating Survey 6/21/2010 prepared for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. The table on page 32 of the survey shows there are approximately 8,000 cordwood using woodstoves, 600 fireplaces with inserts, 350 pellet stoves, and 90 outdoor wood boilers in the nonattainment area. Of the approximately 8,600 cordwood burners (woodstoves & inserts), 5,600 are certified and the rest, nearly 3,000, are uncertified. Also see this FDNM article on the Fairbanks Home Heating Survey 7/2010.
What is the PM 2.5 nonattainment area? View the FNSB PM 2.5 nonattainment area map. The effective date of this nonattainment designation was Nov 2009. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has a comprehensive site covering all the PM 2.5 non-attainment documents, including the recommendation for nonattainment by then Governor Palin. Nonattainment is the US Environmental Protection Agency’s designation for an area which exceeds current Clean Air Act regulations for PM 2.5 or other priority pollutants.
Exposure limits set under the Clean Air Act for PM 2.5 are: the 24-hour average exposure limit is 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air (which we often violate) and the annual average limit is 15 micrograms per cubic meter. In 2006, the federal regulations lowered the 24-hour limit from 65 to the current 35. State air quality PM 2.5 regulations for the ambient air quality standards concur with the federal limits for the 24-hr average and the annual average, see page 3 Alaska Air Quality Control Regulations, 18 AAC 50.010(B). In 2013, EPA lowered the annual limit to 12 micrograms per cubic meter.
Don’t miss the Air Quality Fairbanks site run by the FNSB. Lots of good links and helpful, if dated.
Daily reports of air quality sampling are available on the FNSB Air Quality Program site which gives the current Air Quality Index for PM 2.5 and carbon monoxide (CO), updated Monday-Friday during the winter. Especially helpful for understanding the PM 2.5 problem in the borough are two documents linked from the same page, the 2009 Symposium Summary and the 2009 Symposium Presentations.
In July 2009, the FNSB hosted a symposium on the local PM 2.5 problem. Their 2009 Symposium Summary covers vital background information on establishing the non-attainment area, PM 2.5 timeline, agency jurisdictions, health effects, graph of 24-hr measurements, fixed monitoring locations, temporary monitoring stations locations (including Woodriver and Hunter Elementary Schools), and routes covered by the instrumented monitoring “sniffer” vehicle. It includes a chart (Figure 5) which “shows that the Borough exceeded the 24-hour standard 41 out of 123 days in the period presented (i.e., exceedances were recorded on fully one-third of the days at multiple locations).” (pg 10) The period presented was from 10/29/2008 to 2/16/2009. Listen to KUAC’s radio news story 7/17/2009 on the Symposium.
On the interactive 2009 Symposium Presentations document, multiple presentations can be reviewed simply by clicking on the highlighted text. For example, on July 15, 2009 Session 3, Jim Conner, Borough Air Quality Specialist, presented “Fixed Site Trends.” This presentation on 24-hour average PM 2.5 particle concentrations and hourly concentrations measured at the downtown monitoring station in Jan. 2008. Peaks reached 170 micrograms/cubic meter of air. The winter 5-year comparison chart “Particulate Matter in the FNSB” from 2003/2004 to 2007/2008 records the largest number of days exceeding the 35 micrograms/cubic meter standard was 30. In 2008/2009, according to Figure 5 provided in the Symposium Presentation (described above), the number of days jumped to 41. No data from the winter of 2009/2010 has been made available.
In addition Jim Conner’s presentation (2009 Symposium Presentations, “Fixed Site Trends”) includes a map of “Topography & Drainage Flows in Fairbanks Area.” By this map, it is clear to see that any pollution generated in North Pole drifts into the City of Fairbanks and surrounding populated areas. This map appears to contradict the following quote from the 2009 Symposium Summary (pg 14), although it may be a failure to differentiate between “Fairbanks” and North Pole as separate locations within the “local” nonattainment area:
Transport is not a significant contributor to the Fairbanks PM 2.5 problem. This means local emissions are the cause of Fairbanks’ elevated PM2.5 concentrations.”
The FDNM article on “Wood-burning coalition offers many fixes for Fairbanks pollution” 12/2009 presents the efforts of the Fairbanks Area Wood Smoke Local Action Coalition to identify strategies for reducing PM 2.5. The full report may be downloaded from the Northern Alaska Environmental Center’s site at their air quality action committee link: Fairbanks Area Wood Smoke Local Action Coalition draft. This document espouses the most extreme pro-wood burning position available locally.
Review the Fairbanks North Star Borough codes on air pollution: Chapter 8.04 Air Pollution and also Chapter 8.21 PM 2.5 Air Quality Control Program. Included is the nuisance subsection (FNSB code 8.21.020 E.):
No person shall cause or allow emissions of a solid fuel burning appliance that are injurious to human life or to property or that unreasonably interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property. No person shall operate a solid fuel burning appliance in a manner so as to create a public or private nuisance. A violation of a provision of this chapter is hereby declared to be a nuisance.”
Also included in Borough code is the solid fuel stove change-out program (FNSB code 8.21.030). The change-out program was featured in this FDNM article 9/21/2010, which highlights one resident’s enslavement to his 30-cord/winter outdoor wood burner (now voluntarily removed). The Borough offers residents payments and/or municipal tax credits to remove or replace hydronic heaters (outdoor wood burner/boiler), woodstoves, or chimneys.
FNSB Mayor Luke Hopkins wrote an opinion article published in the FDNM 6/2010 calling for local control of PM 2.5 pollution.
Columnist Dermot Cole for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner has reported on local air pollution and the Air Quality Ordinance in his columns: “Borough needs nuisance standard, fines to protect health, property values and property rights“ 6/2010, “Assembly sets wood smoke fines far below other borough penalties“ 6/2010, and “Private property rights extend to the air“ 8/2010.
Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) home, has heating systems information and has contracted with the FNSB to conduct a study to monitor wood usage and moisture content and heating oil used for home heating in Fairbanks during the winter (Fairbanks Home Heating Survey 6/21/2010, pages 13 and A-12). Read CCHRC 2009 studyof the various PM 2.5 emission sources in Fairbanks and how to achieve the greatest reductions. Graph 3 of this study shows the greatest PM 2.5 reductions from household sources could be achieved through measures to reduce emissions from wood-fired hydronic heaters, pg 14. Graph 4 of the study shows residential coal-fired heating appliances are second only to hydronic heaters in their contribution of PM 2.5 per household, pg 15. Increasing oil prices will lead to more burning of coal unless action is taken.
At the Winter Expo at the Carlson Center on 9/26/2010, Richard and Felicia Musick of Ventilation Solutions were on hand offering home air filtration systems (nearly HEPA standard) and heat recovery ventilation systems. Without making any recommendation or looking at their competitors, it makes perfect sense to protect your family’s health by filtering the air in your home.
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