Sequim council to again ask agency for air monitor
By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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The council unanimously approved the letter, which was addressed to ORCAA Executive Director Francea McNair, on Monday night.
The city requested an air-monitoring station after hearing concerns from residents about the $71 million expansion of the biomass cogeneration plant at the Nippon Paper Industries USA paper mill in Port Angeles.
Several of those residents spoke before the council voted Monday, citing concerns about very small ultra-fine particles that are not regulated by any state or federal agency.
City leaders attended an ORCAA meeting June 26 where they were told any particulates from the upgraded Nippon biomass burner, which is expected to be completed next spring, would fall out of the atmosphere within 3 miles of the Port Angeles plant and would pose no threat to Sequim residents some 16 miles away.
Sequim city officials were told that if a new air-monitoring station were approved, it was more likely that it would be placed in Olympia, which ORCAA officials believe has a greater problem with air quality.
On July 9, the council directed the city attorney to write a second letter to ORCAA.
The letter, in part read:
“A majority of the City Council reaffirms the city’s earlier request for the location of an air quality monitoring station in the Sequim area.
“It seems logical that ORCAA would need background data in order to be able to determine if air quality was presently good in our area and especially to determine if air quality deteriorates in the Sequim area.”
Another portion of the letter addressed the city’s concern about the appearance of the ORCAA denial.
“It is unfortunate that reluctance to monitor the Sequim area air quality may be seen by some as an admission that such monitoring would show that approval of a biomass conversion plant was ill advised.
“Sequim does not hold that opinion, but Sequim wishes to reassure its citizens with factual data,” the letter said.
“It is well-drafted,” said City Councilman Ted Miller on Monday.
“Most of the speakers today endorsed it.”
Mayor Ken Hays added: “It hit all the points made in our debate.”
Councilman Erik Erichsen — who previously opposed a letter to the agency because of concerns about the science of monitoring — voted with the rest of the council to approve the letter Monday.
Council members have expressed frustration that ORCAA told them there is no funding for a new monitor, while it had recently had freed up $50,000 for additional monitors.
Each air monitor costs at least $20,000, plus the cost of installation and the addition of networking equipment, said Dan Nelson, spokesman for ORCAA, last week in a response to the Sequim council’s concerns.
The current model of monitors used by ORCAA is no longer in production, and the new model is expected to be more expensive, Nelson said.
At best, the $50,000 allocated for new monitors can fund 1.5 monitors, he said.
Currently, ORCAA is working with three North Olympic Peninsula requests for new monitors or the relocation of existing monitors — originating from Sequim, Port Angeles and from Port Townsend, where the Port Townsend Paper mill is upgrading its biomass boiler.
Nelson said ORCAA will consider the entire Olympic Peninsula and re-evaluate the locations of all monitors.
The most recent change in ORCAA monitoring was the relocation of a monitor in Shelton, he said.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at email@example.com.
Last modified: July 24. 2012 5:52PM