By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Residents in Port Angeles, Sequim and Port Townsend — and the Port Angeles, Sequim and Port Townsend city councils — have asked for additional permanent air quality stations to measure particulates generated by biomass cogeneration expansion projects being built in Port Angeles by Nippon Industries USA and Port Townsend Paper, both of which are expected to be operating in 2013.
Purchase of four temporary air monitors to be used in Clallam and Jefferson counties will be discussed at the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency — or ORCAA — board of directors meeting at 5 p.m. at the Sequim Transit Center, 190 W. Cedar St., Fran McNair, the director of ORCAA, has said.
The monitors, which would be in place for six to nine months, would measure particulates smaller than the 2.5-micron threshold already mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency.
If approved at the board’s Nov. 14 meeting, the four monitors would be installed in Clallam County in January, with three in Port Angeles and one in Sequim; the following year, in 2014, some or all of the monitors would be placed in Port Townsend, McNair has said.
One of the Port Angeles monitors would be at an existing permanent air-quality station at Stevens Middle School.
Two others would be placed at as-yet unchosen locations in the city.
The Sequim monitor’s location has not been chosen.
One monitor would be placed in Port Townsend at the existing station at Blue Heron Middle School and up to three monitors placed elsewhere in the city, McNair has said.
The Sequim City Council last Monday voted to give the ORCAA board the letter, with the addition of the term “state-of-the-art,” and appointed Mayor Ken Hays to speak on the council’s behalf at the meeting.
“We respectfully request that a monitor be placed in the Sequim-Dungeness area to provide the data necessary to determine if there is an air quality problem in the area,” the letter says.
The council’s letter was drafted before McNair recommended the purchase of the four temporary air-quality monitors, but both Burkett and Hays said that they felt the letter still provided the message the council wanted to send.
“We still have all the same concerns,” Hays said.
“I think it’s a good, strong letter, and I think we should have this strong message on record, regardless of what we know that’s different today.”
City Councilwoman Candace Pratt moved to add the words “state-of-the-art” to the last sentence of the two-page letter.
The proposed temporary monitors, which would measure the size of particulates that are between 0.3 and 10 microns, would be used for “saturation studies” in six counties, including Clallam and Jefferson, in which ORCAA regulates air quality.
Environmental groups have been fighting the maximum 20-megawatt, $71 million biomass cogeneration expansion project being built in Port Angeles by Nippon Industries USA, which will burn wood waste to create electricity, and a similar $55 million, 24-megawatt biomass-facility expansion project at Port Townsend Paper.
McNair has said the monitors are meant to address concerns expressed by area residents about toxin-laden ultrafine particulates that fall under the EPA threshold.
“I think the catalyst for this was the [Nippon Industries USA] project in Port Angeles with a biomass burner, and an expression of concern by some residents in the Sequim area that that might generate health problems or additional air quality problems,” Sequim City Manager Steve Burkett said.
“The council discussed that and I think came to the conclusion that, well, we don’t know. We have to measure and find out if there’s any health problems, or find out what’s the quality of the air and what does that mean in terms of the health issues.”
The letter states that Sequim qualifies under all six criteria that ORCAA uses to determine whether a monitor is needed: emission sources that could affect the air quality, significant citizen complaints, weather that could pose air quality problems, burn bans on outdoor burning and facilities that could create air quality problems.
Nippon mill manager Harold Norlund has said the company already monitors its equipment.
Jefferson County Commissioner Phil Johnson, who chairs the ORCAA board, has said he favors the purchase of the temporary air monitors.
Gretchen Brewer of PT Airwatchers called the idea “a positive step.”
Bob Lynette of Carlsborg, co-chair of the North Olympic Group of the Sierra Club, has called for permanent air quality monitoring stations that measure down to 0.01 microns and called the temporary monitors “a Band-Aid.”
He has asked ORCAA to address seven issues regarding air emissions at Monday’s meeting, including a summary of health implications related to biomass boilers and how pollutants from Nippon and Port Townsend Paper will be distinguished from fireplace emissions.
McNair has said the board will address as many as it can at the meeting.
She also has said that ORCAA does not have a time limit on its review of a cooling tower application for Nippon’s biomass cogeneration plant and that a 30-day public comment period will follow the completion of that review.
The Clallam County Healthy Air Coalition will stage a rally at 4 p.m. Monday at the corner of Sequim Avenue and Washington Street, said Rose Marschall, a member of the coalition.
The rally is timed to precede the 5 p.m. meeting at the Sequim Transit Center.
To reach the coalition, phone 360-457-2191.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at email@example.com.