FAIRBANKS, Alaska - The third annual 'Clear the Air: Home Heating Expo' kicked off Friday morning with speakers from the Interior as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The goal of the expo was to discuss how the community can work to better reduce the PM 2.5 emissions and improve air quality.
According to Tim Hamlin, the Director of the Office of Air and Waste for the U.S. EPA Region 10, the Interior's air quality is better than it has been in the past, but there is still room for improvement.
"So in general, air quality here is really good, but we believe that the fundamental elements of providing incentives and enforcing the burn bans are the elements that will get us to where we need to go, get this community to where it need to be so that people can breathe clean air throughout the winter," Hamlin said.
Hamlin said one sanction of not improving air quality is loss of federal funding. He gave examples of ways community members can be a part of the change. One is through a 'No Other Adequate Source of Heat', or NOASH exemption, which allows people without another heating system in place, to burn wood during a wood ban. Another way is through the grant funded change out program offered by the borough. But not everyone shares this point of view. Wendy Mannan is a North Pole resident and member of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Wood Burners and she said she agrees with the goal of reducing emissions, but she doesn't believe a complete cessation of wood burning is attainable.
"So we only have two choices of heat for this area. We have fuel oil and we have wood heat. So the choices are we can spend a large amount of money on fuel oil or we can spend less amount of money on wood heat. Wood heat is accessible, it is cheap, and if done correctly, and that cannot be overstated, it has to be done correctly, is efficient and it will reduce the emissions," said Mannan.
Mannan said if people aren't given affordable options, it will be nearly impossible to keep them from burning wood. The expo lasted until 5 p.m., but will resume on Saturday September 22 at 8 a.m. at the Wedgewood Resort.
Day two of The 'Clear the Air: Home Heating Forum and Expo' will be live streamed on the borough-run website: www.aqfairbanks.com.