News

ORCAA board to meet in Sequim

by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
Sequim Gazette

The board of the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency (ORCAA) will hold its regular monthly meeting in Sequim on Oct. 15.

 

The board usually holds its meetings in Olympia, but changed the venue in order to provide Clallam and Jefferson residents with an opportunity to discuss the agency’s plans for air-quality monitoring in the two counties.

 

The issue has been raised repeatedly since Nippon Paper Industries in Port Angeles and Port Townsend Paper both announced plans to utilize biomass burners at their mills.

 

Critics say the burners will generate hazardous levels of particulate matter and say current ORCAA monitors are insufficient to properly gauge the risk they pose.

 

Dan Nelson, Public Information Officer for ORCAA, said the board will first hold an abbreviated regular meeting to take care of organizational matters, then provide an expanded presentation about ORCAA’s monitoring plans for all six counties within the agency’s purview.

 

Nelson said because it is a monthly board meeting, “it’s up to the board to decide how much time to spend” on public comment. Board members already have indicated they expect a substantial number of local citizens to be in attendance.

 

Nelson said the Sequim meeting was scheduled because of the “increased interest in air quality” of those living along the northern reach of the peninsula.

 

“Our board wanted to make it easier for them to have a voice with the board,” Nelson said. “It also will serve as a chance to present our air monitoring plans to the community.”

 

The meeting begins at 5 p.m. at the Sequim Transit Center, 190 W. Cedar St.

 

Air monitor discussion

At its Sept. 12 meeting the board also discussed purchasing several portable monitors for use in the two counties. Nelson said the portable monitors can provide high quality measurements but aren’t designed for permanent use. A “standard nephelometer station” that can be put into place for 15-20 years can cost $20,000 to $30,000, Nelson said. Once the maintenance costs are added, the figure for installing and operating a new station for three years can rise above $50,000.

 

The less expensive portable monitors could be used for studies, including perhaps “a small regional air study” to determine where new monitors are required. “They can be easily deployed in Port Angeles, Port Townsend or Sequim,” Nelson said. “They’re research equipment that we can use to make much more informed decisions.”

 

Nelson said no final decision has been made on buying the temporary monitors, noting the purchase may require a significant change to the current annual budget.

 

Nelson also noted that the agency has just hired Dr. Odell Hadley as the agency’s senior air monitoring specialist.

 

He said she brings a great deal of expertise to the task.

 

Reach Mark Couhig at mcouhig@sequimgazette.com.

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