Air Quality Cause for Concern at Fairbanks-Area Schools

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

There are concerns about air quality at Fairbanks area schools.  A number of people, including several parents of kids with breathing problems, testified about the issue before the North Star Borough school board this week.  Anna Marie Benson, the mother of two kids at Fairbanks Wood River Elementary, said winter air quality at the school has gotten worse in recent years.

Benson said air quality is even a problem inside the school.

Others testified about similar smoke problems at other school sites in Fairbanks, and North Pole. Most asked for air quality monitoring and installation of filtration systems at schools with proven problems.

The State and Fairbanks Borough are trying to figure out who’s in charge of air quality.  Last year, voters supported local control, but passed a citizen initiative earlier this month, that prohibits the borough from banning heating devices or fining people for using them.  Borough Air quality specialist Jim Connor says attorneys are considering the implications, but there may be some wiggle room for the borough.

Connor confirms there have been many complaints from the Wood River school and surrounding neighborhood, where borough air quality monitoring has shown elevated fine particulate concentrations.  He attributes the situation to a high level of wood stove use and two hydronic heaters or wood boilers that put out excessive smoke.  He says the two big polluters have been unresponsive to borough and state requests that they stop fouling the air, and court action may be required.

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