The Burn Bans: Charting Problems, Seeking Solutions

Published: Mar. 29, 2018 at 7:24 PM AKDT
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In the final installment of the three part series on this winter's burn bans, Amanda Brennan takes a look at how the air quality is measured and how that information is available to the public.

Nick Czarnecki; FNSB Air Quality Division Manager>>: "So this is what we refer to as the 'sniffer vehicle' that goes out to collect the data to make the maps."

Amanda Brennan; Reporting>>: As the Air Quality Manager for the borough, Nick Czarnecki is tasked with implementing the curtailment program. Mass quantities of data are collected, analyzed, and then made available to the public on the borough Air Quality Division website. The borough has enlisted a small fleet of sniffer vehicles to measure PM 2.5 levels five days a week during the burn ban season.

Nick Czarnecki; FNSB Air Quality Division Manager>>: "The tube is where they pull the sample in from the ambient air, and if you saw the shot beforehand, it's just the tube that comes up and forms a 'U' from the top. That's where the sample is collected and is fed down into the instrument."

Amanda Brennan; Reporting>>: Borough Data Collection Technician, John Wilson analyzes the filters from the Personal Data Ram, or PDR aerosol monitor, located in the sniffer vehicles and notes visual observations.

John Wilson; FNSB Data Collection Tech. II>>: "We filter on clean data days, days that we have very little PM2.5 emissions. It will typically stay clean, or it will after a week's use be brown. However on heavy days where the inversion is bad, where PM2.5 is very thick, we'll have filters that come back after a week's use or even after 3 or 4 days use that are completely browned or black."

Amanda Brennan; Reporting>>: GPS points with associated PM 2.5 levels are then uploaded to Wilson's computer while he drives. He then creates maps of the locations of the poorest air quality back at the Air Quality Division office. All the maps are available on the borough's Air Quality Division website.

Nick Czarnecki; FNSB Air Quality Division Manager>>:"Through the State of Alaska and through the Borough's website, you can have access to the regulatory monitor's and that gives you real-time data for what's happening at the North Pole monitor first road and the Borough administration building. We also have a community monitoring program during the winter that gives up to twelve additional real-time monitors that provide hourly data. "

Amanda Brennan; Reporting>>: With the rating of the non-attainment area being raised from moderate to serious by the EPA, Czarnecki says more regulations are on the horizon. He also says the issue of air quality is not about one individual, but a cumulative problem.

Nick Czarnecki; FNSB Air Quality Division Manager>>: "We realize that it is not easy to comply with these rules. That the curtailment is probably one of the most difficult things to implement. And it's not that the Borough wants to do these things, it's what everybody feels is the best solution to the problem."

A Joint work session by the DEC on the FNSB non-attainment area is scheduled for Tuesday, April 3rd, and will be open to the public.

Amanda Brennan reporting.