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Alaska power plant under scrutiny for coal ash

Posted: February 12, 2012 - 1:09am

FAIRBANKS — Already under watch by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Fairbanks is coming under scrutiny by the environmental agency again after a resident complained of black dust near a power plant downtown.

The EPA received a petition by the resident last May, investigated in September and found enough questions to warrant an investigation, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. Other residents have complained about the issue to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The nature of the work ahead is looking at potential problems and trying to understand if they’re real problems,” said Dan Opalski, the director of environmental cleanup in the EPA’s Seattle office.

The city of Fairbanks is under watch by the EPA for high levels of particulate matter.

Opalski said the agency hasn’t reached any conclusions about the origin of the dust or any possible health risk it might pose.

The dust is close to the Aurora Energy plant, but other power plants in the area will also be watched.

“I think it’s fair to say in that environment there could be a number of things going on,” he said.

Aurora Energy President Buki Wright said the company plans to cooperate fully with the EPA during the process.

“We’re in compliance with everything we need to be in compliance with,” Wright said. “We believe we’re operating conscientiously and are conscientious neighbors.”

Opalski said the next step in the process will be gathering more data through the collection and analysis of samples and a more thorough evaluation of the site.

That process is expected to take place this summer, but Opalski said a specific plan for its study hasn’t been developed. He also said residents in the area shouldn’t be alarmed at the prospect of an EPA investigation, since it’s too early to know if there’s a valid cause for concern.

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Information from: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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