Alaska DEC Suing Operators Of Outdoor Wood-Powered Boilers In Fairbanks

Pollution from two outdoor wood boilers in Fairbanks has resulted in the state filing suit against the operators.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is suing Andrew and Gloria Straughn to halt operation of the boilers at rental properties they own in a neighborhood near Woodriver Elementary School. The suit cites 180 complaints to the state from 50 different people since 2008.

DEC air quality program director Alice Edwards says the state has long tried to work with the Straughns to address the problem.

“The Straughns have tried a number of things two, three years to try and reduce those emissions,” Edwards said. “The extended the stacks of those units in 2009; and in 2010 and ’11, they worked with trying to retrofit those units with catalysts, but those actions haven’t been successful in reducing the smoke to an acceptable level, and the complaints continued.”

Edwards says legal action was the next step to try to force compliance. The state is seeking to stop the boilers, which it says have caused health problems for people in the Woodriver neighborhood, including elementary school kids. It’s also seeking reimbursement for investigating the case, and bringing the lawsuit.

The Straughns did not return calls for comment.

A case against another Fairbanks outdoor boiler operator is possible. The state is compiling complaints against Larry Gilbert, who operates a boiler at a property off the Steese Highway and Farmers Loop extension. He was also issued a nuisance abatement order in 2011.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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