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Pollution check: Better public reporting needed for air quality

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Posted: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 11:41 pm | Updated: 4:15 pm, Fri Jan 25, 2013.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner editorial

With lots of attention focused this winter on local air quality, it’s unfortunate that residents of Fairbanks and North Pole cannot easily check on air conditions electronically in an easy-to-understand format.

The systems used by the state and the borough to inform the public have improved in recent years, but they remain inadequate.

One obvious step is for the borough and the state to participate in the national AIRNow website, a cooperative effort of federal, state and local agencies across the country.

Alice Edwards, the director of the state air quality program, said her staff has been working for a year to try to work out technical problems without success.

“Given limited resources we have set aside our efforts to connect to AIRNow, for the moment,” she said. “We will be working in the future to re-establish the AIRNow link for Alaska data, but for now are relying on the state and local web sites to provide that information.”

We urge the Parnell administration to change its position and work with the borough on a better approach. The state and local websites are difficult to use, cumbersome and poorly designed. We need more air quality monitors and we need a better communication system.

The national website provides air quality data from hundreds of cities and counties, both small and large. The information is presented in a clear and understandable fashion.

In addition, the website allows people in one area to compare air quality with other parts of the country on a regular basis.

If every other state can master the technical challenges of this system, so can the borough and the state.

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