Juneau city officials declare ‘air emergency’

Particulate matter in the air obscures the view of Herbert Glacier from Lynn Canal near Juneau early on the morning of June 30, 2019.

Particulate matter in the air obscures the sun and the view of Herbert Glacier from Lynn Canal near Juneau early on the morning of June 30, 2019. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

Local officials have issued an emergency for the entire City and Borough of Juneau due to unhealthy air.

The city is discouraging outdoor aerobic activity until the air quality improves. The declaration also bans open burning and cancels burn permits.

“This is some of the worst air quality that we’ve ever seen, and actually, probably the worst air quality that we’ve ever detected in the city of Juneau,” said Greg Chaney, the city’s lands and resources manager who was involved in the declaration decision.

“These (numbers) are staggering. … Like this weekend, we were getting (air quality index) numbers of 135 – the sort of stuff they were getting in Beijing before the Olympics. But this would be kind of the borderline of where they would call off Olympic events.”

Chaney said the city monitors air quality through a state sensor at Floyd Dryden Middle School. The city’s air quality in recent days has wafted between the Environmental Protection Agency’s orange and red benchmarks. Orange indicates the air is unhealthy for sensitive groups — like older adults and children. Red indicates everyone may have health effects.

The National Weather Service’s forecast for Juneau predicts haze and areas of smoke into Tuesday night. Forecasters attribute the haze to smoke from northwest Canada and Interior Alaska.

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