Fairbanks air quality plan okayed by EPA

A Fairbanks North Star Borough fine particulate air quality plan submitted by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Approval of the moderate air quality plan means that the state, borough and community can fully focus on meeting more stringent area requirements that will be needed in the serious area plan and achieving clean, healthy air quality for borough resident, the EPA said Aug. 29.

Tim Hamlin, director of EPA’s Region 10 Office of Air and Waste, said the agency is encouraged that the state and borough will continue making these improvements toward developing a more stringent air quality plan.

Denise Koch, director of DEC’s Division of Air Quality, said her agency is encouraged by the borough’s efforts to work with the community to reduce emissions and appreciates EPA’s approval of the moderate area plan.

“The improved local ordinance, long running change out program to provide funding to upgrade wood stoves and hydronic heaters to cleaner heating appliances, and the annual Fairbanks Clear the Air Forum and Expo are providing the local community with the information and tools needed to solve the air quality problem locally,” she said.

The approved plan identifies reasonable actions to move toward meeting the fine particulate standard by reducing emissions from residential heating sources- wood stoves and hydronic heaters – that contribute to high particulate air pollution levels in the area. When high levels of fine particulate pollution are expected in the borough, bans on use of wood heaters will be in effect.

The plan includes measures to improve air quality, such as providing incentives to residents to replace old, high polluting wood heaters, prohibiting dense smoke from chimneys and prohibiting use of unseasoned wood.