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Air quality warnings persist in Fairbanks, North Pole

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Posted: Thursday, November 8, 2012 12:14 am | Updated: 11:54 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS - Air quality warnings have accompanied a stretch of cold weather this week, but those advisories won’t necessarily count against a federal mandate to limit local pollution levels.

Borough air quality technician Jim McCormick said early Wednesday afternoon that air quality warnings are expected to last at least through Friday evening this week, with fine-particulate pollution levels classified as “unhealthy” in North Pole and “unhealthy for sensitive groups” in Fairbanks.

At 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, the borough issued an updated advisory describing the air as “unhealthy” in both areas.

Those warnings are based on a federal standard for measuring pollution, but it isn’t the same one that counts against pollution limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Because the Fairbanks area has been classified by EPA as non-compliant with federal air quality standards, local pollution levels are being monitored by the agency.

McCormick said testing for those EPA limits is done using an air filter system, which is later weighed to determine the amount of air particulates it has captured. Results from those tests aren’t yet available.

So far this winter, North Pole has three times reached the “unhealthy” air standard, according to the borough, and six times hit the warning for sensitive groups. Fairbanks has twice hit the standards for unhealthy air for sensitive groups, both times this week, McCormick said early Wednesday afternoon.

Air quality can vary in the borough, and is more concentrated in neighborhoods with heavy wood or coal burning, the borough advisory said.

More information about local air quality warnings is available online at

Contact the newsroom at 459-7572.

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