A Cleaner Frontier: Fairbanks Borough offers programs to cut down on PM2.5

Published: Jun. 10, 2021 at 3:54 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Fairbanks North Star Borough has several programs to cut down on PM2.5 emissions in the Interior.

According to Nick Czarnecki, the Fairbanks North Star Borough Air Quality Manager, PM2.5 has been a concern in the borough for several years. Czarnecki explained, “PM2.5 is an air pollutant that’s one of the criteria pollutants that EPA monitors because there are health and environmental impacts. It’s called a fine particulate, so it is a really small particulate, much smaller than a human hair - so small that you can’t really see them - and why these are so damaging to health is because they’re so small that they actually penetrate deep down into the lungs and they can carry toxins and other things through all of your body’s natural protections and get into your bloodstream, and there’s long term health effects that are based on both short term and long term exposure.”

Czarnecki continued by explaining how the difficulty with these emissions is that they can be caused by any source of fuel burning. “There are a lot of causes for PM2.5. The primary one that you think about is when you burn anything, you get fine particulates. So it can come from a combustion engine within your car, from diesel engines, and it also comes out of your boiler, and then your wood stove. They all emit different levels of them with the wood stove probably being the highest.

There are a few key things residents can be aware of to do their part in cutting down on emissions according to Czarnecki. “People can first of all, look at what you are heating your house with. Has it been properly maintained? Has your oil boiler been serviced this year? Has your chimney and your wood stove been cleaned? So first off, look at how you heat your home. Make sure that it’s properly maintained. If you do have a wood stove - because you know, that’s the largest contributor to PM2.5 pollution in the Fairbanks area - you can look at three things: you can look at the appliance, the operation, and the fueling.”

While properly operating your appliances and using correctly seasoned wood are big factors, using an up to date appliance is also vitally important - and the borough can help provide you with one.

“Technology improves, and devices get cleaner with time. Those old stoves can be much higher polluting than some of the new technology that’s out there, and if you have an old stove then we actually have a wood stove change-out program here at the borough where we offer financial incentives to help change that out. We have many different options that folks can go to, not just a new wood stove. You can use it to upgrade your oil boiler, convert to natural gas if you happen to be where IGU is putting in lines, you can get an emergency backup system for your house and lots of other things. We have about $14 million in the program so we have a lot of funding over the next five years, and we really want to see folks take advantage of that especially if they have those old wood stoves,” Czarnecki said.

For more information on PM2.5 and the various resources available, contact Fairbanks Air Quality at 907-459-1005 or at their website.

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