Tag Archives: Fairbanks North Star Borough

EPA, others balk at Tanana rail bridge

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Wednesday, December 15, 2010:

Federal environmental regulators said Friday a bridge proposed to span the Tanana River represents too big of an environmental risk.

The concern may not stop the project, which has attracted strong advocacy from public officials in the Interior, but it represents at least a crimp in the plan. Managers hope to start construction next year on a bridge-and-levee project that could last four years.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wrote its letter of objection Friday to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It follows a similar letter sent in November and arrives alongside similar concerns from several other public agencies.

The Corps is processing a permit application for the project’s sponsor, the Alaska Railroad Corp. The railroad, with funding from the Department of Defense and the state Legislature, wants the bridge to help the military, a major client, get year-round access to huge military training grounds south of the river.

The 3,300-foot bridge would be the longest in the state.

Fairbanks Borough Assembly considers $1 million in upgrades to landfill

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Saturday, December 10, 2010:

The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly is looking at more than $1 million in new funding for an ongoing landfill project on South Cushman.

The project includes two major parts: sealing sections of the landfill and building a line that circulates moisture through the closed sections. The first phase of the three-year project was completed during the summer and cost about $6 million.

Both parts were undertaken so the landfill will comply with federal and state regulations. They also align with plans for methane capture project the public works department has on the drawing board.

On Thursday, the assembly moved forward with two sources of state funding for the project. The rest of the funding comes from tipping fees paid by municipalities and other customers.

Landfill managers are required to continually close cells as they fill, said Scott Johnson, director of public works for the borough. This prevents landfill gas, which contains methane and carbon dioxide, from escaping at the top and the bottom of each cell.

“We seal it with a chemically impervious membrane,” he said.

That membrane is buried by gravel, soil and grass, “so you see a grassy hillside,” he said.

Parts of the old landfill and newer landfill were closed this summer. The assembly requested $340,000 in additional funding from Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to go toward the same project.

“I wanted to grab on to that because it’s 100 percent reimbursement,” Johnson said.

Sufferers testify about ills of wood smoke

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Thursday, December 9, 2010:

School counselor Dawn Brashear enjoyed good health until about two years ago.

That was about the same time residents near her school, Woodriver Elementary School, began installing outdoor wood boilers.

Now Brashear has chronic sinus problems, including a cyst, that doctors tell her is related to breathing air pollution.

Woodriver school is located off Chena Pump Road in west Fairbanks and lies in one of the community’s multiple air pollution problem areas.

Brashear was one of more than a dozen people who testified Wednesday before the Air Pollution Control Commission, an advisory panel to Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins.

Air quality warnings should reflect changes in altitude

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Wednesday, December 7, 2010:

As part of the continuing discussion about improving air quality in Fairbanks, the borough and the state should be developing a new system to communicate health warnings  to the public.

The blanket warnings still in use are not accurate for every part of the community.

We need a monitoring system that recognizes that the pollution levels on the valley floor in Fairbanks and in North Pole are higher than in the  hills.

In addition, in the neighborhoods with heavy localized smoke, the current system doesn’t reflect how bad the problem is for some residents.

The generalized pollution reports offer  a misleading image of air conditions, typically repeated by the news media without scrutiny. The state does post a notice on its website about these limitations, but a better system would go a long way to educate people about air quality.

Continue reading: Air quality warnings should reflect changes in altitude

Inversion spurs air quality alert for Fairbanks

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Thursday, December 2, 2010:

Air pollution spiked to unhealthy levels Wednesday, prompting the borough to urge residents to avoid exercise and to cease wood and coal burning when possible.

The air quality advisory is in effect until 5 p.m. today when weather conditions are expected to change, improving the air.

Tiny yet harmful airborne particles reached a density of 56.4 micrograms per cubic meter of air by Wednesday afternoon, according to the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s air quality index.

Levels above 35.5 micrograms are deemed unacceptable by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The air began deteriorating early this week. On Tuesday, the borough issued an advisory judging the air unhealthy for sensitive groups, namely young children, older people and people with heart and lung afflictions.

The air grew progressively worse on Wednesday, air quality technician Jim McCormick said.

Fairbanks borough regulations fading on wood smoke ordinance

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sunday, November 21, 2010:

A new air quality measure by the Fairbanks borough mayor scales back regulations on wood smoke emissions but maintains a prohibition on the installation of old, dirty stoves.

The regulations on smoke emissions were set to go into effect next fall.

The ordinance on Monday goes before the Air Pollution Control Commission, an advisory panel to Mayor Luke Hopkins.

Hopkins said he wants rules on the installation of uncertified stoves to continue because the ballot proposition prompting his new air quality ordinance referred to the use of home heating devices and not their installation.

“We are still limiting the stoves so that we don’t keep digging ourselves in a hole,” the mayor said.

Emissions from increased wood burning in the borough include a tiny but toxic particulate known as PM 2.5, and the federal government has put Fairbanks on notice to reduce levels of PM 2.5 by 2014.

Fairbanks borough requests state subsidies for heating change-outs

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Monday, November 22, 2010:

Hundreds of residents are showing interest in subsidies to upgrade to cleaner-burning home heating systems, according to the borough. So the Borough Assembly last week asked the state Legislature for $5 million to keep things rolling.

The incentive program, started with $1 million of federal seed money, is a response to chronic air pollution in Fairbanks. Health and air pollution officials from the local level to the Environmental Protection Agency have various interests in stamping out chronic wintertime air pollution. Studies consistently point to wood-fed heating as a major culprit.

The seed grant, from the 2009 federal recovery act, will mean hundreds of new heating systems, but Mayor Luke Hopkins said Friday many more people are expected to apply. 

What to do about moisture levels in your wood fuel


By CCHRC Staff

The “Ask a Builder” series is dedicated to answering some of the many questions Fairbanks residents have about building, energy and the many other parts of home life.

Q: Where can I get information on the moisture content of wood for burning in my stove?

Freshly cut wood can be very wet and can contain up to 80 percent moisture.

In terms of moisture for wood burning, 20 percent or less is ideal.

Fortunately, Fairbanks is a fairly dry climate, and if wood is cut in the spring, split, stacked and covered, it should be dry enough to burn by the fall.

However, do not cover a woodpile with tarps that drape over the sides.

Wood should be stored in a woodshed, or covered with a spare piece of plywood, roofing tin, or anything that will allow air to flow through the pile.

Also, stack the wood on pallets to avoid exposure to ground moisture.

The bottom line is, the drier the wood, the cleaner and more efficiently it will burn.

The more moisture in the wood, the less energy will come out of it as heat because the moisture has to be burned off as steam first.

Excessive moisture also creates problems with creosote.

Burning wood with a moisture content of 25 percent or higher the amount of pollution increases in the form of harmful particles exiting the chimney.

A moisture meter can identify how wet wood is.

Moisture meters are handheld devices with prongs that stick into the wood. They can be purchased locally or online and consumer models are relatively inexpensive.

Alaska HomeWise articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC). If you have a question, e-mail us at akhomewise@cchrc.org.You can also call the CCHRC at (907) 457-3454.

Gaps in Alaska law mean ‘buyer beware’ when it comes to household mold

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Monday, November 8, 2010:

The new owners of a North Pole home were renovating the guest bedroom when they discovered black mold festering along the base of a wall.

Their real estate agent pointed them to someone who could help.

In mid-October, air quality consultant Bill Reynolds peeled back a layer of paint that had been applied over the mold.

Air samples from the room revealed Stachybotrys (pronounced stacky-bottress) levels of 5,200 spores per cubic meter. The environmental laboratory considers anything more than 600 “of concern,” Reynolds said.

The water, which came from a leaky bathtub pipe next door, soaked the trim along the wall and provided both ingredients for growing mold: moisture and cellulose.

“We were just really disappointed because it was not disclosed in the papers,” said Tanja Glidden, the new homeowner, who is eight months pregnant.

Grant available to determine feasibility of large-scale geothermal energy production

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Friday, October 28, 2010:

The borough wants to know if geothermal energy can be captured in Fairbanks for large-scale power production.

A $1 million federal grant is available to help answer the question. But there’s a catch.

Whoever wins the grant must contribute a million dollars of their own.

The assembly on Thursday voted unanimously to hold a competitive process to distribute the grant.

The project must include modeling of a deep geothermal reservoir system or “hot zone” and drilling of a test well.

A successful grant recipient would also analyze and map the borehole and surface geology.

The goal is to determine whether sustainable heat flow can be maintained and whether potential exists for geothermal energy production in the borough.