2010 March 9: AK Fairbanks: Air Quality PM2.5 Fact/Informational Sheet

2010 March 9: AK Fairbanks: Air Quality PM2.5 Fact/Informational Sheet

REVISED: 3-9-10


On December 22, 2008 the Environmental Protection Agency declared part of the Fairbanks North Star Borough a Non-Attainment area for fine particulate pollution (PM

2.5). In the winter, PM2.5 concentrations in the Non-Attainment area routinely exceed the allowable limit (20-30 times each winter), thereby violating the federal health-based standards. PM2.5 is a concern as excessive levels of PM2.5 impact the health and well-being of Borough residents. The problem continues to worsen over time and appropriate measures need to be put into place in order to reduce PM2.5.

Below are the days per winter season (Jan-Mar and Oct-Dec) that we have exceeded the EPA standard:


  1. Elevated ambient
  2. PM2.5 concentrations are a health risk to children, the elderly, and those with respiratory or heart disease, folks with the least number of options, are the first to suffer. In the wintertime, PM2.5 concentrations exceed the allowable levels set out in the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) which is based on peer reviewed scientific research to assess the health risks associated with PM2.5 exposure. An extensive body of evidence proves the health risks of exposure to elevated PM2.5 concentrations.

  3. Wood smoke is the only source we have positively identified as a significant contributor to wintertime
  4. PM2.5 and preliminary results now indicate that it is the most significant contributor.

  5. Summertime wildfire smoke is excluded from data used to determine Non Attainment status.
  6. Fine particulate matter or
  7. PM2.5 is not due to dust – dust particles are much larger and our instruments filter the dust out of the measurements.

  8. We will not be able to meet the EPA health standard without addressing the emission of wintertime wood smoke
  9. and Fairbanks must have a plan to control PM2.5 in place by 2013.

  10. The wintertime problem area is larger than downtown Fairbanks and includes the Fairbanks bowl and North Pole.
  11. The
  12. PM2.5 Non-Attainment area was established to encompass the areas of known high concentrations and those areas that could contribute, via drainage or transport, to the areas of high concentrations. Areas with zero population such as the Tanana Flats were excluded.

  13. The Borough received 102 air quality complaints last winter and 76 of these were neighbors of residences with outdoor hydronic heaters (OHH). This winter we have already received 101 and 42 or these were for known OHHs. A common question we receive at every public presentation is "What are you going to do about these offensive outdoor boilers?" Many of these devices are inappropriately located and in one setting they have posed a significant health risk to the children at Wood River Elementary School.
  14. Page 1 of 4

    1. We cannot solve this health problem without community support and education programs. It is a serious community health problem that will require serious community input and solutions.


    1. The exact meteorological conditions required to accurately forecast exceedance conditions.
    2. Of the non-wood related combustion sources such as mobile transportation sources, waste-oil, fuel oil, and coal, we do not know the actual percentage each of these sources contributes to the non-wood related combustion problem.
    3. How large the
    4. PM2.5 problem is within isolated areas within the Borough.


      1. The Borough government has a general mandate under Borough Code 8.04 to protect the public health, safety, and welfare in regard to air quality. After a positive advisory vote of the public, the Assembly authorized an agreement between Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to allow for the Borough to be the lead agency in developing control measures designed to reduce PM2.5 .


        1. The Borough’s role in the
        2. PM2.5 is limited to small stationary sources and mobile sources, such as residential homes and small scale commercial activities.

        3. Major stationary sources, (permitted facilities) such as power plants, refineries, etc. are under the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s regulatory authority. However, the Borough is working cooperatively with the State in their regulatory efforts.

          1. Continuing studies to better understand the sources of the
          2. PM2.5,source apportionment, and appropriate control measures.

          3. Gathering public input through the Pollution Control Commission and various other ad-hoc groups.
          4. Drafted an Ordinance (2009-20-1U) to provide funding for a position to develop an education program and providing information to the public to improve understanding of the problem including public presentations, Pollution Control Commission meetings, providing information to Assembly members, and local groups as requested, as well as airing TV informational commercials regarding proper wood burning.
          5. Drafted an Ordinance (2010-17) outlining a solid fuel burning device emission control strategy with a focus on incentives and voluntary compliance.
          6. Identifying and evaluating options for a dry wood supply.
          7. Continuing to develop a
          8. PM2.5 Control Plan that satisfies Federal requirements and brings us into attainment status.

            The Borough drafted Ordinance 2010-17, which was not advanced by the Assembly. The Pollution Control Commission (PCC) is currently reviewing the document and will make recommendations at their March 9

            th meeting. Mayor Hopkins and his staff will consider the PCC’s recommendations and other comments for potential inclusion in the ordinance and plan to submit it back to the Assembly in April. 2010. If advanced, the Ordinance will go to a work session for discussion and then will come before the Assembly for public hearing.

            WHAT DOES ORDINANCE 2010-17 DO?

            1. The Ordinance outlines voluntary measures such as the repair, removal and replacement program for older, non-efficient solid fuel burning devices.
            2. The Ordinance provides funding incentives (cash and tax credits) to help offset the costs of a voluntary removal, replacement and repair of a solid fuel burning device.
            3. The Ordinance puts controls on the
            4. future installation of solid fuel heating devices in an effort to prevent further degradation of our air quality. This includes set back distances and lot size restrictions for the installation of hydronic heaters. Page 2 of 4

              1. The Ordinance provides for a nuisance provision. The right to comfortable enjoyment of life and property is one that should be enjoyed by all citizens and a neighbor’s solid fuel heating device should not injure another person’s property, health or unreasonably interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property rights.
              2. The Ordinance provides for a voluntary burn restriction during periods of poor air quality.

              WHAT ORDINANCE 2010-17 DOES NOT DO?

              1. The Ordinance does not take away your wood stoves or your outdoor wood boiler; it doesn’t even require a mandatory ban during periods of poor air quality.
              2. The Ordinance does not impact anyone’s current use of any solid fuel heating devices (essentially grandfathering in everyone’s current investment). The provisions of the Ordinance only applies to purchases and installations made
              3. after the adoption of the ordinance.

              4. The Ordinance does not require registration or permit of existing solid fuel burning devices.
              5. TIMELINE:

                1970 Federal Clean Air Act Passed.

                1975 First DEC-FNSB MOU signed with minor amendments in 1986, 1990, and 1993 addressing languages changes and funding amounts.

                1978 FNSB Request and Governor Approval as lead organization for developing and implementing a plan for achieving the CO Ambient air quality standards in the FNSB.

                2003 DEC-FNSB MOU major amendment defining PM

                2.5 responsibilities.

                2004 DEC offered an additional $9000 to support ½ year of expanded monitoring to help the Borough better ascertain the PM

                2.5 problem, Borough Assembly rejected these funds.

                2005 DEC-FNSB MOU amended to include expanded PM monitoring including an additional $18,500 annually.

                2005 Borough recognized the impending EPA action regarding PM

                2.5 standard and started gathering information to address the attainment analyses and initiated special purpose monitoring in accordance with 2005 MOU.

                2006 EPA Revised the PM

                2.5 standard lowering the allowable level in a 24-hr period from 65 micrograms per cubic meter to 35 micrograms per cubic meter. EPA requested State’s recommendations for Non-Attainment status. Joint Borough-DEC-EPA Region 10 discussions on Non-Attainment Boundaries conclude. Pollution Control Commission meeting held to brief the commission.

                2008 EPA sent draft designation to the Alaska Governor’s Office proposing Non-Attainment Boundaries that included most of the Borough.

                2008 Borough and DEC provided technical evidence supporting reducing the Non-Attainment area, which was accepted by EPA.

                2008 July Pollution Control Commission (PCC) meeting held where a panel of experts was assembled to present the Health effects of PM

                2.5 and provide open public discussion of the problem and potential control strategies.

                2008 Sept Pollution Control Commission meeting held to update PM

                2.5 issues and provide public input regarding ongoing discussions with the EPA.

                2009 Borough commissioned the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) to produce a guidance tool for policy decisions based on modeled emission reductions for potential control strategies and recommendations.

                2009 DEC-FNSB MOU negotiated amendment to delegate PM

                2.5 primary planning authority to the Borough.

                2009 April Pollution Control Commission meeting held to discuss PM

                2.5 issues and the MOU amendments and the final CCHRC report.

                2009 July Air Quality Symposium held to solicit input to help understand and solve the PM

                2.5 problem where a special evening session was offered to encourage public participation.

                2009 July Borough Assembly postponed action on negotiated MOU amendments.

                2009 July 30 Ordinance introduced to ask residents if they want local control of the PM

                2.5 program.

                2009 Aug 15 Borough Air Quality staff at Tanana Valley State Fair to provide information on the Proposed Ordinance.

                2009 Aug 20 Public hearing on ordinance and assembly action.

                2009 Aug 25 Pollution Control Commission/Public Testimony on proposed Ordinance to address Solid-Fuel Burning Devices in the non-attainment area.

                2009 Sept Federal Register to be published regarding the EPA Non-Attainment designations (tentative).

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