Fairbanks Borough air quality letters yield single citation

Wood stove pipe on a Fairbanks home.
(Credit Dan Bross / KUAC)

The Fairbanks North Star Borough toughened its air regulations in advance of this spring’s EPA re-designation of much of the borough as a serious non-attainment area for fine-particulate pollution. The borough issued more than 170 air quality violation warning letters, but only one citation followed.

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In March the borough passed tougher air quality measures that reduced the number of burn stages and increased fines. The borough also stepped up monitoring and following up on reports of violations. As a result Nick Czarnecki with the borough’s air quality division said more than 174 certified letters were issued to violators.

“And then if a particular individual is found to violate multiple times within a winter, then it can move up to a citation,” Czarnecki said. “Last year, there was only one citation issued.”

Czarnecki said Borough Mayor Karl Kassel would also regularly follow up certified letters with a personal phone call. Glenn Miller, who directs air quality at the borough, said that is one reason for the high ratio of warnings to citation. He said another reason is many violators are unaware of burn restrictions.

“And then the third component of that is we have only two people that are dedicated for complaint response, and they can’t be everywhere at once,” Miller said.

Miller said while there are probably violators out there that escape detection, he believes most people want to do the right thing.  He also said the process is reset each fall, so past violators start out fresh start. Staffing levels and borough tracking are sure to be topics as the assembly takes up another air quality ordinance at its meeting June 19.

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