Three years pass without Fairbanks CO violation

Posted: Monday, February 10, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The Fairbanks North Star Borough is lobbying to be removed from the federal Environmental Protection Agency's list of ''nonattainment'' communities after three-years without a carbon monoxide violation.

The last time the EPA cited the borough for surpassing federal carbon monoxide standards was Feb. 8, 2000. The borough, once in a perpetual planning mode for how it would achieve ''attainment'' status, now has shifted its focus to maintaining current levels, said borough transportation director Max Lyon.

Attainment level means a community has made it two years without exceeding EPA carbon monoxide standards twice in one year.

The borough was precariously close to facing stringent EPA regulations. Lyon said if borough had not narrowly escaped through 2000 without exceeding federal limits, the EPA would have instituted new requirements such as reducing the daily output of carbon monoxide by 5 percent.

Meeting that requirement would have left the borough with few options other than simply taking cars off the road, he said. The agency also could have cut federal road construction money.

A violation occurs when there is an average of more than 9.5 parts of carbon monoxide per million parts of air, the level the EPA deems safe for the most susceptible community members, including infants or people with breathing problems.

Violations have steadily declined since the 168 recorded in 1974. Borough officials said it's mainly due to residents to warming their cars with electricity before starting.

Studies indicate 70 to 80 percent of the borough's carbon monoxide output comes from cars. A vehicle produces more emissions when it's started cold and warming up than any other phase, Lyon said.

Glenn Miller, director of the borough inspection and maintenance program, also credits newer vehicles with better pollution control equipment.

The borough has been aided in recent winters by favorable weather conditions, Lyon said, including limited amounts of inversion conditions in which layers of warm air trap cooler air beneath its surface. The presence of an inversion makes the borough even more susceptible to elevated carbon monoxide levels, he said.

''We've always wanted to get an exemption because of the inversion issue,'' he said.

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