Thursday, February 20, 2020

Fairbanks gets push toward cleaner heating sources

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said recently that it plans to approve the Fairbanks North Star Borough fine particulate quality plan submitted by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, but with an eye toward other steps to help the city come into compliance with the Clean Air Act.

The EPA says the main focus should be on moving toward heating systems that burn cleaner air and away from residential wood stoves and hydronic heaters, which contribute to high particulate pollution levels in the area, especially during cold inversions, which are common.

“EPA is proposing approval of the Fairbanks air quality plan, but our work with the state of Alaska and the borough is far from done,” Tim Hamlin, director of EPA Region 10 Office of Air and Waste, said. “The biggest contributor of fine particulates are the wood stoves and wood heaters many borough residents use to heat their homes. The big challenge is that the need for heat is greatest when burning wood is most likely to be harmful to public health.”

He said there are steps that can be taken even without switching immediately to cleaner-air heaters.

“For those who must burn wood, using dry wood in professionally installed certified wood stoves and using techniques to burn it hotter reduces fine particle pollution and the amount of wood burned,” Hamlin said. “EPA will continue to support local and state efforts to develop and implement actions that will achieve the standard and improve air quality for borough residents.”

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Environmental Protection Agency Region 10

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