Thursday, September 05, 2013

Study to examine ultrafine particle pollution being spewed by plants that burn wood waste

 (Source: Peninsula Daily News)

A $516,232 state grant will be used to determine how much dangerous fine particle pollution is being spewed by biomass cogeneration plants such as those run by paper mills in Washington State.

The two-year study, which will begin in October and is funded by the state Department of Ecology, could have national significance as one of the first of its kind to delve into ultrafine particle pollution generated by burning biomass, or wood waste, said Odelle Hadley, senior air monitoring specialist with the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency, or ORCAA.

Hadley said the study will be conducted in part in reaction to citizen concerns about ultrafine particles and ORCAA’s inability to monitor its emissions.

Ultrafine particles are known to cause health problems and are more insidious than larger particles because they are so tiny, ORCAA said.

“Smaller particles penetrate deeper into lungs, heart and even brain to cause more health damage,” according to ORCAA’s description of the ultrafine particle study at

Port Angeles-based Nippon Paper Industries USA, which manufactures newsprint for newspapers, including the Peninsula Daily News, and telephone-book paper, is completing construction on an $85 million biomass cogeneration plant expansion that will produce 20 megawatts beginning in October.

Port Townsend Paper Corp.’s $55 million, 24-megawatt biomass cogeneration expansion has been delayed until 2014 or 2015 after a state Court of Appeals ruling that sent a suit filed by five environmental groups to the state Supreme Court.

ORCAA regulates and enforces air quality issues in Clallam, Jefferson, Grays Harbor, Mason, Pacific and Thurston counties.

The agency’s light-based monitoring equipment cannot distinguish between pollution particles that are 2.5 microns and those of 0.1 micron or less, known as ultrafine particles.

ORCAA will oversee the study, which will be conducted by University of Washington professor Daniel Jaffe and associate professor Joel Thornton, who will be assisted by university students.

“It does provide an opportunity to extrapolate our findings to national and even international levels because biomass-cogeneration power is certainly being looked at in a number of areas in the U.S. and Europe,” Thornton said.

Their equipment will include mobile monitors that will take measurements while being driven around in a van.

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