Air quality officials speak at panel held in North Pole

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the Fairbanks North Star Borough were at the North Pole Library Wednesday night to answer the community's questions.

Mike Pollen, moderator of the event read a resident’s question, "What are your plans for providing additional health education about the effects of PM 2.5 to the community?"

"The health effects are definitely one of the very important issues that the borough plans on promoting with that education and outreach campaign. I don't have specifics on a health based ad, but we are working actively to try to develop those," said Nick Czarnecki, Fairbanks North Star Borough Air Quality manager.

Many residents wanted to know more about Electrostatic Precipitators, or ESPs, which residents believe will allow them to burn wood while producing less emissions. Representative Tammy Wilson wanted to know if there will be incentives to put these devices on their wood stoves.

"If individuals are willing to put out the money, or to go and put this on, would the DEC or EPA, cause right now there is no incentive to do it, you're just out the money and you're trying to make air cleaner," said Wilson.

Alice Edwards with the Alaska DEC said that they are actively considering all the comments they received regarding this but that she couldn't give a definitive answer on what the outcome will be.
One message echoed from officials throughout the discussion was that reaching attainment is going to take community engagement and involvement.

"We do have a different role the borough plays and the state plays, we've made a lot of progress and we still have a ways to go. It's going to take a lot of effort, for us to come up with solutions as a community that work and that has sustainability. Ultimately that's what we want to do is come up with solutions that work that bring us to attainment together as a community," said Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Bryce Ward
One resident who has been active in the community, Mike Prax, addressed the crowd explaining why they should all be burning dry wood.

"The reason they don't have to tell us to do that, is we're going to save money by doing that, and there's a lot of room for improvement, there’s a lot of reasons that people aren’t doing that now, but that’s just something that we can work on, if the air gets clean, well alright…but we save money by doing it, so we should do things like that, that just make economic sense,” said Prax.

With the temperatures starting to drop, community members wanted to know what to expect with state regulations this winter. Edwards says they are still operating under the same plan as previous years.

"So all the same programs are basically in place, and then once the air quality plan is finalized and there are new requirements then DEC will be back in the community and talk about how those will be implemented," said Edwards.

Edwards says they expect to submit the Serious State Implementation Plan to the EPA in the December time frame and think it is possible for the borough to reach attainment in the next ten years.

Copyright 2019 KTVF. All rights reserved.