ORCAA funds air-quality monitors for Peninsula

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

By Rob Ollikainen

Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The Olympic Regional Clean Air Agency has approved a budget that funds an air-quality study in Clallam and Jefferson counties.

Four temporary air-quality monitors will be used in a two-year saturation study that will gauge emissions from the biomass expansion projects in Port Angeles and Port Townsend.

The $3,500 monitors and associated equipment were part of a budget that ORCAA board members approved Wednesday in Olympia.

Three monitors will be placed in Port Angeles and one in Sequim at sites to be determined. They are expected to go online in January.

The monitors, which will measure the diameter

The monitors, which will measure the diameter and quality of particulate matter 0.3 microns and larger, will go to Port Townsend in January 2014.

ORCAA officials planned to be on the North Olympic Peninsula today to discuss potential sites for the monitors.

“Once we have those signed agreements, we’ll make that public,” agency Executive Director Fran McNair said.

The goal of the study is to collect good data to ensure that the ambient air quality meets federal standards.

“We’re the first air agency I know of in the state, and maybe even the nation, to be doing this kind of study,” McNair said.

“It’s a good thing.”

Environmental groups have been fighting the 20-megawatt, $71 million biomass cogeneration expansion project at the Nippon Industries USA mill in Port Angeles and a similar $55 million, 24-megawatt biomass expansion project at Port Townsend Paper Corp.

The biomass facilities will burn forest slash and other woody debris to generate electricity.

At an ORCAA board meeting in Sequim last month, dozens of biomass opponents said they appreciated the agency’s plan but called for permanent instruments that measure ultrafine particulates 0.1 microns or smaller.

Biomass project opponent Bob Lynette of Sequim, co-chair of the North Olympic Group of the Sierra Club, described the ORCAA study as “a really good start.”

“They’ve come a long way in the last three months,” he said.

“The problem is that it still doesn’t measure the ultrafines,” he said.

“It’s a good start, but we need to go further to get monitoring devices that will actually measure the number of ultrafines.

“It’s the ultrafines that are a major concern.”

Current monitors measure particulates 2.5 microns and larger, a threshold set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The EPA does not have standards at this point for ultrafines,” McNair said.

Researchers are studying the effects of ultrafine particulates to determine if they should be regulated.

Some speakers at the Oct. 15 meeting called for a moratorium on the biomass projects altogether.

Both projects have met the permit requirements.

Both are under construction and are expected to be go online in 2013.

The Nippon mill has been burning woody biomass, sludge and residual oil at the foot of Ediz Hook since 1953. The new facility will burn about three times as much biomass as the mill burns now.

ORCAA professional engineer Mark Goodin said at the October meeting that the new boiler “will substantially decrease” particulate emissions.

The agency maintains air monitors in each of the six counties that it covers.

Lynette said there are better instruments available that could measure ultrafine particulates.

“It would mean supplementary budgeting by ORCAA,” he said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 15. 2012 6:02PM
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