DEC acts on Fairbanks air quality
Following a new ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency, changing the status of Fairbanks’ inability to fix its air quality problems from moderate to serious, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has mandated measures to address air quality in the city.
The problem arises from the widespread usage of wood burning stoves for the heating of homes in the Interior city, given the high cost of alternative methods of heating. Thermal inversions during cold winter weather cause smoke from the stoves to accumulate close to ground level, raising the concentration of smoke-related particles in the air well above the levels at which health issues arise.
DEC is introducing two measures in response to the EPA ruling.
The first measure requires building owners selling, leasing or conveyancing their properties within the area impacted by air quality problems to replace inefficient wood-fired heating equipment with EPA-certified wood or pellet stoves. The stove certification must meet current emission standards.
Secondly, DEC requires wood sellers in Fairbanks to register with the agency and document the moisture content of the wood that they sell. The wood sellers must provide information about the wood’s moisture content to their customers. The burning of wet wood exacerbates the emission of smoke from wood stoves. ADEC says that a water content in excess of 20 percent causes increased emissions.
“These measures are designed to improve air quality and help bring the area closer to compliance with current standards,” said Denise Koch, DEC director of air quality. “Controlling particulate matter will benefit public health throughout the Fairbanks North Star Borough community.”
- ALAN BAILEY