Truckee reports better air quality |

Truckee reports better air quality

The increased use of natural gas in Truckee and removal of air-polluting woodstoves and fireplaces steadily improved the town’s air quality over the last four years, according to a new town report.

Air pollution that comes from wood burning has dropped over a four-year period, except for a spike in 2001 because of the Martis Peak Fire, according to town officials. They point to an aggressive campaign to eliminate woodstoves and fireplace inserts that do not comply with Environmental Protection Agency standards. Those efforts, they believe, will continue to help drop air pollution levels.

The extension of natural gas to Truckee, beginning around 1999, made possible alternate heating methods, said Town Planner Duane Hall. The availability of gas, coupled with a rebate program and other financial incentives to remove polluting appliances, is beginning to show success, Hall said.

“We knew we had air quality problems and we knew we needed improvement, but we didn’t want to be draconian,” Hall said of the effort to slowly phase out the appliances with as little hardship on homeowners as possible.

All woodstoves and fireplaces that do not comply with Environmental Protection Agency standards must be removed by July of 2006.

Now that the town has tackled wood smoke pollution, it will focus on road sanding and construction practices that contribute to the dust pollution in the area. The town and Caltrans have already worked on improving equipment and sanding practices, and have even considered substitute materials to reduce the ground-up particles of sand that are sent aloft by passing vehicles.

“If you have a really aggressive program, you can reduce re-entrained road dust emissions by 30 percent,” said Hall.

Sanding guidelines are a priority of the town, but are not scheduled to be formulated until next year or later.

Developers who include wood burning appliances will pay a mitigation fee of $300 per woodburning unit. Developers causing other emissions, such as dust raised during construction activity, will pay $7,336 per annual ton of emissions.

To gauge the success of their efforts, the town and the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District replaced an unreliable air quality monitor in October 2003, and are now getting accurate air quality readings for sand and dust pollution at the downtown monitoring site. In the future, the air quality data from the new monitor will allow the town to compare accurate levels of pollution from 2004 to future years.

The town is also working closely with Placer County to share resources and have uniform fireplace and woodstove requirements in Truckee and the Martis Valley.

Meanwhile, the town is still providing incentives for the removal of all woodstoves and fireplace inserts that are not EPA certified. Homeowners can receive up to $300 for non-complying appliance removal and up to $500 for removal and replacement with a certified appliance.

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