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Woodriver Elementary committee renews fight for cleaner air

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Posted: Sunday, December 9, 2012 11:47 pm

FAIRBANKS — A committee of 13 staff members and parents from Woodriver Elementary School has formed to renew the campaign for cleaner air in the west side neighborhood that has been regularly smoked out in recent years.

The committee wrote to Gov. Sean Parnell, as well as other state and local officials, asking for help in ending the pollution problem at the school.

They said that although a smoke filter was installed at the start of 2011, smoke in the building and on the school grounds remains a problem.

“We need your help to stop the immediate pollution of our air by at least two outdoor wood burning hydronic boilers locate directly across the street from the Woodriver elementary campus,” they said.

“We have developed a smoke plan with the current principal to assure that staff reports of smoke are filed with the borough and the state,” the group said.

“The students and staff of Woodriver Elementary School have the right to breathe clean air. When will the assault on our health stop?”

They asked for responses from public officials with details of what steps they plan to take.

Meanwhile, there are two neighborhood air quality meetings set for next few days near schools that have had high pollution levels reported on daily runs that are taken by a vehicle equipped with a pollution monitor.

The  first meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Watershed Charter School near the airport, while the second will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Nordale Elementary School.

The daily runs show that the level of particulate pollution varies widely from neighborhood to neighborhood. It’s clear to me more monitors are needed and it should be a borough and state priority to get monitors in place and publicize the daily results. We need to follow the example of the U.S. embassy in Shanghai, which has a 24-hour Twitter feed reporting the level of particulate pollution, which has often been lower there than it has been in Fairbanks this winter.

The results of the daily runs past local schools should be publicized and become part of the discussion about Fairbanks air quality. 

On Friday, for instance, the pollution levels at local schools ranged from 4 at Woodriver and University Park to 49 micrograms per cubic meter at the Watershed Charter School.

The second highest level was at Nordale, 38 micrograms per cubic meter. The results of the North Pole run were not available.

On Thursday, a high pollution day, the level at Watershed reached 104 micrograms, the highest for any local school, followed by 58 at Ticausk Brown, 54 at Badger Road, 52 at Nordale, 48 at North Pole Middle, 44 at North Pole Elementary, 43 at Woodriver and 39 at North Pole High. The cleanest air was at Howard Luke and University Park, where the levels were 4 micrograms per cubic meter.

The federal standard is for a maximum of 35 micrograms per cubic meter for 24-hour exposure. The particles are 2.5 micrometers or smaller, which are inhaled and lodge deep in the lungs.

Dermot Cole can be reached at cole@newsminer.com or 459-7530. Follow him on Twitter at FDNM@dermot.

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