City agrees to monitor air


Sequim Gazette staff

A resolution went forward Monday night from Sequim city councilors asking the Olympic Regional Clean Air Agency (ORCAA) to pay for and operate an air quality monitoring station in Sequim.


Councilors unanimously approved the resolution 7-0 after hearing 15 speakers supporting the resolution.


Speakers said they oppose and/or want more information on the impact of the incoming biomass-fueled cogeneration facility at the Nippon Paper Industries USA mill in Port Angeles.


“Let’s find out the truth,” Bob Lynette of Sequim said during public comment. “That’s why monitoring is important. The last thing you want to be known for is being downwind of a biomass plant. It may be no big deal, but you need to know the answers.”


Mayor Pro-tem Ted Miller sponsored the resolution and later agreed with Lynette’s sentiment.


“I suspect it’s probably not that serious, but the people of Sequim are entitled to know,” he said.


City Manager Steve Burkett said the city’s next step is to send in a formal letter to ORCAA requesting the resolution for ORCAA’s meeting on Wednesday, June 13.


He said it’s ORCAA’s responsibility to protect the air quality of the region and he plans to work closely with it to find dollars in its budget to fund the air quality monitor.


The resolution asks for $55,500-$63,100 for at least three years plus $20,000-$22,000 in upfront costs to operate the machine.


Mayor Ken Hays asked for a deadline on the air monitor, if approved, to be in place before the biomass plant is finished. He also said that the city should ask ORCAA to host a forum on the issue because it’s not the city’s jurisdiction. 


Proponents of the resolution filled the city council meeting in Sequim Transit Center with more than 50 people in attendance.


“As you know, we get very few people at the council meetings and to have this many people at council means there’s probably a thousand or more out there concerned,” Councilor Don Hall said.


Last week, Fran McNair, executive director of ORCAA, told the Gazette she sent the city criteria for putting in a monitor, but her agency doesn’t have the budget to do so. McNair said she plans to have more conversations with city staff.


Burkett said Sequim previously had an air monitor on the fire station before it moved to its current location on Fifth Avenue.


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