Washington's Olympic Region Clean Air Agency approves four air-quality monitors to study emissions from biomass projects in Port Angeles and Port Townsend; critics say equipment will not monitor 'ultra-fine' particulates

LOS ANGELES , November 19, 2012 () – A study of air quality around two biomass cogeneration plants under construction in Port Angeles and Port Townsend, Washington, was approved by the regional air quality agency on Nov. 14, reported the Peninsula Daily News on Nov. 16.

As part of the budget approved for the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCAA), four temporary air-quality monitors will be used in the two-year study, and will go online in January at places yet to be determined in Clallam and Jefferson counties.

Three of the monitors will be placed in Port Angeles, Washington, where a US$71-million, 20-megawatt (MW) biomass cogeneration expansion project is under way at Nippon Industries USA’s paper mill.

The remaining monitor will be located somewhere in Sequim, Washington, the Peninsula Daily News reported.

Port Townsend Paper Corp. has a project similar to Nippon’s under way, but on a smaller scale. The 24-MW biomass expansion project at the Port Townsend mill is costing $55 million. Both projects are set for completion in 2013.

The study was called “a really good start” by Bob Lynette, co-chairman of the North Olympic Group of the Sierra Club, which opposes the two biomass projects over concerns about air quality, reported the Peninsula Daily News.

The problem is that the monitors cannot measure ultra-fine particulates, which are “a major concern,” said Lynette. Ultra-fine particulates are 0.1 microns or smaller; the monitors to be used in the study can only measure 0.3 microns or larger.

Monitors that could measure the ultra-fine particulates would require ORCAA to increase its budget, said Lynette.

Opponents of the biomass projects asked ORCAA at its meeting last month to install permanent instruments to measure particulates 0.1 microns and smaller, the Peninsula Daily News reported.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) threshold is for 2.5 microns and larger, but researchers are studying the effects of ultra-fine particulates to determine if they should be regulated.

The ORCAA study, which is the first of its type in the state and perhaps the U.S., will collect data to ensure that EPA standards for ambient air quality is being followed, said ORCAA Executive Director Fran McNair, reported the Peninsula Daily News.

The primary source of this article is the Peninsula Daily News, Port Angeles, Washington, on Nov. 16, 2012.

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