Fairbanks air pollution readings could increase with federal change in monitoring location

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska — A new location for monitoring of wintertime air pollution in the Fairbanks North Star Borough area could mean far higher official readings, according to local officials.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is changing the location for the official monitor used to measure fine particulate emitted by wood stoves and other burning devices.

The old location was in downtown Fairbanks. The new location east of North Pole has shown considerably higher particulate numbers, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/1yHK8qv) reported.

"The bottom line is, it is not good news for us, obviously," said Glenn Miller, air quality director for the borough.

Fine particulate has been linked to heart attacks, decreased lung function and premature death in people with heart or lung disease. The young, elderly and weakened are considered especially vulnerable.

Ultimately, air throughout the borough must be cleaned to meet federal standards, but the change in the official monitoring station could have an effect on perception.

Fairbanks ranked No. 7 last year on the American Lung Association list of dirtiest cities based on fine particulate measuring 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less. Readings at the new location could bump Fairbanks to a higher ranking.

Three years of EPA data are averaged to come up a community's "design value," a tool the EPA uses to measure progress toward cleaner air. The new design value for the Fairbanks monitor is 40 micrograms per cubic meter, said Barbara Trost, environmental program manager for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. The goal is to get below 35.

However, the preliminary design value at Hurst Road is 139 micrograms per cubic meter.

"The number will go up quite a bit," said Lucy Edmondson, EPA air quality planner.

In every non-attainment area, Edmondson said, the monitor with the highest design value is the monitor of record. This will be the first year the Hurst Road monitor meets regulatory criteria to be an official monitor, she said.

Clean-air advocates in Fairbanks say the local hazard likely has been underreported.


Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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