First-of-its-kind study to examine potential biomass ultrafine particle pollution
By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
Print This | Email This
PENINSULA HOME FUND — A 'hand-up' as a former social worker remakes his life -- 12/8/13 -10:57 PM
Looking for a city office in Sequim? Temporary locations while new civic center is built -- 12/8/13 -06:02 PM
Today's PDN Page 1 . . . and read faster, absorb more -- 12/7/13 -06:51 PM
Veteran Peninsula actor has not one but two roles in Seattle production of 'Oliver!' -- 12/8/13 -06:10 PM
Sides to get down to business on agreement over Olympic National Forest timber -- 12/8/13 -05:57 PM
A $516,232 state grant will be used to determine the degree to which ultrafine particle pollution, which currently is not regulated or monitored, is being spewed by biomass cogeneration plants such as those run by paper mills in Clallam and Jefferson counties.
The two-year study, which will begin in October and is funded by the state Department of Ecology, could have national significance as one of the first of its kind to delve into ultrafine particle pollution generated by burning biomass, or wood waste, said Odelle Hadley, senior air monitoring specialist with the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency, or ORCAA.
“That was one of the reasons we were kind of excited,” she said last week.
“The controversy regarding air quality and biomass is not unique to Clallam County or Jefferson County.
“You can find these issues raised all over the country.”
Hadley said the study will be conducted in part in reaction to citizen concerns about ultrafine particles and ORCAA’s inability to monitor its emissions.
Ultrafine particles are known to cause health problems and are more insidious than larger particles because they are so tiny, ORCAA said.
“Smaller particles penetrate deeper into lungs, heart and even brain to cause more health damage,” according to ORCAA’s description of the ultrafine particle study at http://tinyurl.com/ngahbwr.
Port Angeles-based Nippon Paper Industries USA, which manufactures newsprint for newspapers, including the Peninsula Daily News, and telephone-book paper, is completing construction on an $85 million biomass cogeneration plant expansion that will produce 20 megawatts beginning in October.
Port Townsend Paper Corp.’s $55 million, 24-megawatt biomass cogeneration expansion has been delayed until 2014 or 2015 after a state Court of Appeals ruling that sent a suit filed by five environmental groups to the state Supreme Court.
ORCAA regulates and enforces air quality issues in Clallam, Jefferson, Grays Harbor, Mason, Pacific and Thurston counties.
The agency’s light-based monitoring equipment cannot distinguish between pollution particles that are 2.5 microns and those of 0.1 micron or less, known as ultrafine particles.
ORCAA will oversee the study, which will be conducted by University of Washington professor Daniel Jaffe and associate professor Joel Thornton, who will be assisted by university students.
“It does provide an opportunity to extrapolate our findings to national and even international levels because biomass-cogeneration power is certainly being looked at in a number of areas in the U.S. and Europe,” Thornton said Friday.
Their equipment will include mobile monitors that will take measurements while being driven around in a van.
Instruments will begin being deployed in October, with monitors placed near Port Townsend Paper and near Nippon’s mill at the base of Ediz Hook.
Thornton said he hopes to separate ultrafine pollution generated by the cogeneration plants from ultrafine pollution generated by wood stoves and internal combustion engines.
“Chemical signatures — fingerprints, if you will — allow identification,” he said.
As for distinguishing biomass-burning from residential wood-stove burning, “we expect there will be differences because of different temperatures and operating conditions,” Thornton said.
Nippon’s project has survived numerous challenges during the permitting process that were spearheaded by environmentalists who focused on ultrafine pollution.
“We have a very up-to-date, modern facility, and this is going to be a great improvement to our process,” Nippon mill manager Harold Norlund said of the new biomass-cogeneration facility.
He declined to comment on the study.
Representatives of Port Townsend Paper could not be reached for comment.
As representatives of the North Olympic Group of the Sierra Club, Sequim-area residents Bob Lynette and Bob Sextro in December urged Sequim-area 24th District state Reps. Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van De Wege, both Democrats, to procure the funding.
The 24th District includes Clallam and Jefferson counties.
Tharinger said it was included in the budget approved by the state Legislature in June.
“One study does not a policy conclusion make, but there is a gap in . . . scientific information that this will help bridge,” Tharinger said.
Gretchen Brewer, director of PT AirWatchers in Port Townsend — one of the groups that has fought biomass expansion in Port Townsend — was encouraged.
“This is the direct monitoring we’ve been asking for for years, so we are quite excited about this whole process.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at email@example.com.
Last modified: August 31. 2013 6:27PM