2010 Feb. 20: AK Fairbanks: Borough considers fine for pollution from wood, coal smoke

2010 Feb. 20: AK Fairbanks: Borough considers fine for pollution from wood, coal smoke
by Amanda Bohman / abohman@newsminer.com
02.20.10 – 03:07 am

FAIRBANKS — People whose wood-and-coal-fired stoves belch out dense smoke would pay fines starting at $300 under a pollution control proposal by the borough mayor. The plan was posted on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Web site Friday.

The measure, Ordinance 2010-17, is set to be introduced at the assembly meeting Thursday, the same night the panel will consider the mayor’s request to hire an air quality project coordinator.

The federal government has put the municipality on notice that levels of fine particulate matter known as PM 2.5 must be brought down by 2014. Studies show wood stoves are the No. 1 contributor to PM 2.5, which is known to cause health problems.

If approved by the assembly, the new chimney smoke regulations would begin Sept. 1, 2011.

Under the proposal, the borough would provide subsidies and tax breaks to people who make improvements on their property that result in cleaner air.

The mayor is out of town and could not be reached Friday. Assembly members reached said they had not yet read the measure, which places new rules on commercial wood stove sellers.

The legislation obliges sellers to educate their customers about emissions regulations and how to properly use their solid fuel burning devices. A seller who violates the proposed regulations would be subject to a $1,000 fine.

Nathan Sapp, floor manager at The Woodway, said the store already holds free weekly classes on proper wood burning and posted a video on its Web site, http://home.gci.net/~thewoodway/, showing wood-burning techniques.

“The big thing is just getting people to burn their stoves as efficiently as possible,” Sapp said.

He belongs to a borough pollution control commission, which meets on March 9 to discuss Hopkins’ proposal.

The 16-page document has a list of 14 items prohibited to be burned in the borough’s non-attainment area, which stretches from the Tanana River to the Goldstream Valley and from North Pole to the Old Nenana Highway. An estimated 83,000 people live in the boundaries. The no-burn list includes plywood, construction debris, particleboard, garbage and tires.

Air Quality Director Glenn Miller said in a memorandum that the borough and the city of Fairbanks have received an unprecedented number of complaints about bad air in recent months.

“People are demanding help in dealing with this community problem,” he said.

Only solid fuel burning devices approved by the borough or the Environmental Protection Agency can be installed in the borough under Hopkins’ proposal. Already-installed devices are grandfathered in.

Hydronic heaters, also known as outdoor wood and coal boilers, would be prohibited on property under 1.8 acres and the smoke stack would have to be five feet higher than the roof of any home within 140 feet, according to the plan.

Under the fine schedule, anyone caught violating the emissions standards would get one warning before there is a $300 ticket. The fine for a second offense is $500.

The chimney smoke would be judged based on opacity and methods put forth by the EPA.

The pollution control plan says the mayor will designate up to three borough employees to enforce the rules.

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