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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fecal Matters: Beach Closure at Richey Viewpoint Beach, West Seattle

BEACH Program Update

Today, October 31, 2012, Seattle-King County Public Health closed the beach at Richey Viewpoint in West Seattle because of a sewage overflow at a nearby wastewater treatment plant pump station. The County is actively testing the water quality in this area.

Contact with fecal contaminated waters can result in gastroenteritis, skin rashes, upper respiratory infections and other illnesses. Children and the elderly may be more vulnerable to waterborne illnesses.

Stay updated about water quality at your beaches by keeping up with us on our blog Fecal Matters, on Facebook, or join our listserv. Julie Lowe is the BEACH Program Manager and is available at 360-407-6543 or julie.lowe@ecy.wa.gov for questions.


Seattle Times: Yakima Basin Plan “is a refreshing counterpoint to frustrations with gridlock elsewhere in politics.”

by Tim Hill, Office of Columbia River

Lance Dickie writes in The Seattle Times:
A long, frustrating campaign season and years of legislative paralysis in Congress fuel a need for optimism about a fresh start in politics.
I believe I have found it, and it is here at home in this Washington. The name does not roll off the tongue, but it illustrates how things can change for the better:
The Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan is a product of extraordinary work and compromise, and it offers long-term benefits for the environment and economy.
Read the rest of Mr. Dickie’s column.

More about the Yakima River Basin Integrated Water Resource Management Plan.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

“Ecology for Scientists" website serves niche audience

By Sandy Howard, communication manager, Environmental Assessment Program

We’ve got a new online presence that shows off Ecology’s most current environmental studies and reports, as well as new, related information.

We call it Ecology for Scientists.

We hope this web resource helps scientists tap into our state’s growing body of environmental knowledge.

Visit Ecology for Scientists to find links to our databases, as well as links to recently released studies, reports, journal articles, and posters we’ve shared at conferences.

You’ll also find links to new reports we think you’ll find of interest. For example, the site now has links to information about the Environmental Protection Agency’s new Lower Yakima Valley Groundwater Report. We also link to the state’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification website.

Other links found at Ecology for Scientists: Ecology’s Environmental Assessment Program produces the website and updates it bimonthly. This program helps Ecology measure and assess environmental conditions in Washington state. If you have questions about any of the website’s content or have ideas to make it better, you can email me at sandy.howard@ecy.wa.gov

Find Ecology for Scientists in the left column of Ecology’s home page.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Leaking Hanford tank complicates cleanup plans

By Dieter Bohrmann, communications manager, Nuclear Waste Program

On October 22, the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) announced that video inspections confirmed a leak from the inner shell of a double-shell tank at Hanford. This was the first confirmed leak from one of Hanford’s 28 double-shell tanks, and the discovery threatens to further complicate plans for treating 56 million gallons of high-level radioactive waste from leaking and failing single-shell tanks at the site.

Prior to this discovery, the assumption was that Hanford’s double-shell tanks were sound. They were built in the late 1960s through the ‘80s to store waste from the 149 aging and leak-prone single-shell tanks. That waste is destined for the Waste Treatment Plant (WTP), which is under construction but not scheduled to be operating until 2019 at the earliest. When operational, the WTP is designed to blend this waste with silica and turn it into glass, a process called vitrification. After the glass cools and solidifies, the waste is immobile and can no longer leak into soil and groundwater. This form allows for relatively safer long-term storage in specially designed facilities.

The double-shell tanks – which hold up to a million gallons each – remain critical to the retrieval and eventual treatment mission at Hanford. However, the determination of a leak will require USDOE and Ecology to take a harder look at the integrity of other double-shell tanks and weigh the options of what to do next. These options may include pumping waste from the leaking tank into other double-shell tanks or possibly recommending the construction of new double-shell tanks. Over the next few weeks, Ecology’s managers will be considering the practicability of possible actions as well as continuing discussions with USDOE before making recommendations on the path forward.

Fortunately, the leak is contained in the secondary shell and there is not an imminent threat of release of contamination to the environment. The leak consists of a slow ooze of sludge (think ketchup or peanut butter). However, this finding highlights the complexity and uncertainty of Hanford cleanup and is an important reminder that USDOE and its contractors must complete the Waste Treatment Plant and get it into service without further delays.

For more information and updates on the double-shell tank situation, please check out our new web page. There is also a link to this page under Spotlight on Ecology’s home page. Click on “Hanford tank leak.”

Let’s Talk Science! Technology behind monitoring fine particle pollution

By Brook Beeler, environmental educator, Office of Communication and Education

Why do we monitor air quality in Washington state? Why, it’s a little thing called the Clean Air Act. We have an extensive network of monitors across the state to help us keep tabs on the seven air pollutants outlined by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. These standards for carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, lead, fine particles, larger particles, and ozone are set to protect health.

Unhealthy air is a big problem for public health. A mountain of scientific evidence has shown that fine particle pollution aggravates and causes heart and lung disease and can even result in death in some instances. While fine particle pollution can result in serious health problems for anyone, the people most sensitive to air pollution include:
  • Infants and children
  • Older adults (those 65 and older)
  • People with lung and heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or those with a current respiratory infection.

Extensive network monitors particle pollution

Our air monitoring network is large, with more than 60 monitoring stations across the state. Because particle pollution represents the single biggest air pollution health threat, the vast majority of our network monitors measure those fine particles. Other pollutants, such as ozone, are also measured, but our main focus is fine particles. The large number of monitors that we are able to operate across the state is primarily due to an investment that we’ve made into a cost-effective, accurate surrogate for measuring fine particles known as nephelometers.


Yakama Nation station operator Terry Ganuelas services theYakama Nation station operator Terry Ganuelas services the nephelometer (the cream-colored instrument) at Toppenish.
The national standard for measuring particle pollution is a labor-intensive and operationally expensive process that uses filters. A sample of air is run through a filter with a pump. After sampling, the filter is collected and sent to a laboratory for analysis. This can take weeks or even months for the lab to analyze the filter and determine what pollution levels were like on the day the sample was run.

In contrast, the vast majority of our near “real time” monitoring data comes from an instrument that actually measures visibility, called a nephelometer. Nephelometers measure the amount of light that bounces off fine particles in units called back scatter (bscat). Generally, the less light that “scatters,” the cleaner the air.

“We have found that in most areas of Washington state, our nephelometers report bscat levels that closely track fine particle concentrations,” said Sean Lundblad, quality assurance specialist. In other words, when bscat is high fine particle pollution is high. When particle pollution is high the air is unhealthy.

Low-tech solution to provide real time data

In the Pacific Northwest, the types of particles in our air allow the nephelometer to work well. Over time, we have tracked monitoring trends and we have been able to correlate the nephelometer data to deliver near real-time air quality information to the public.

Technology for monitoring air is changing. Filter-based monitor sampling is labor intensive and operationally expensive even though the instruments are not necessarily very costly. More importantly, filter-based sampling provided no information to the public about current air pollution to help people protect their health. Newer monitors are equipped with digital outputs so the data can be polled, stored in central databases, and distributed to public websites in near real time. Ecology and its partners have purchased several of these newer monitors. However, these instruments are still very expensive. Therefore, we continue to rely primarily on our nephelometers to provide data on air pollution levels.

“The benefits of technology can’t be overstated,” Lundblad said. “The use of cheaper, near real time monitors has allowed us to operate a much larger network than was once possible given the same number of station operators. And, because nephelometers are easier to maintain, our operators don’t need to visit the monitoring sites as often so their time is freed up to do other important air quality work.”

Our monitoring network is the best of both worlds. In order to save tax-payer dollars we employ nephelometers in areas that are generally low in pollution. They are inexpensive and allow us to directly distribute the data to websites in near real time.

In a world where technology is rapidly changing how we do our work, sometimes the best technology is still the simplest one.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Air Time: The World of Wood Burning

by Air Quality Program, wood stove coordinator

People use fire as part of nearly every culture. Burning wood to cook food is still vital for much of the world’s population today. Unfortunately, bringing some ancient but unaltered practices into the modern, and often urban, world may not be safe or wise.

The issues related to residential wood burning are as complex as our modern world. In my blog posts, I will explore wood burning issues and perhaps broaden your perceptions. You’ll also learn to decipher some of the more common jargon from both industry and regulators. Along the way I hope you’ll discover why Washington State leads the nation in standards for wood burning devices, but why we still have wood smoke problems and concerns.

I write as both a scientist and wood stove owner. Through the years, I’ve owned and operated pellet stoves, wood stove inserts, catalytic stoves, non-catalytic stoves and fireplaces. (You’ll learn the meaning of these terms as we explore wood burning devices). I’ve made the often stumbling transition from a clueless owner to a careful stove operator. Even though I have an advanced degree is forest resources, the bulk of what I share with you is from my daily interactions with manufacturers, testing labs, retailers and regulators across North America, as well as my own experience.

If you are among the clueless, this is your chance to gently learn more about the issues related to heating with wood. I’m going to assume you care about both a healthy home and a healthy environment, and about making these available to future generations. With that in mind, my next post will set the stage for understanding why wood smoke matters.

For more information, see Wood Stoves, Fireplaces, Pellet Stoves and Masonry Heaters

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Happy 40th Anniversary Clean Water Act

By Joye Redfield-Wilder and Sandy Howard

Forty years ago, on Oct. 18, 1972, the U.S. Congress enacted the Clean Water Act designed to end pollution to the nation’s rivers, lakes and bays.

For the past several months, Northwest Public Radio’s EarthFix — a public media project with many regional public broadcasting partners — has been reporting on different aspects of the Act’s influences for series of reports called, “Clean Water: The Next Act.” Ecology staff worked with the reporters as they’ve profiled the monumental challenges of urban runoff to Puget Sound and the plight of the small communities, whose wastewater facilities are in decline and need of upgrades since being constructed some 30 years ago. You can follow EarthFix reports.

State agency formed to protect Washington's environment

In the late 1960s, the state of Washington already had several separate commissions looking at the burgeoning concerns associated with the environment and natural resources. They were the fisheries and parks departments, and the Water Pollution Control Commission and the Department of Water Resources that would become part of the Department of Ecology.

The Department of Ecology and the state’s environmental laws grew out of the foresight of Gov. Dan Evans, who in early 1970 called a special session of the Legislature to concentrate on environmental protection. Also key to the movement was the League of Women Voters and its president Joan Thomas, who in 1967 helped form the Washington Environmental Council, as told in Ecology’s oral history. In the late ’60s, she worked to help bring the then Democratic Senate into support for the Republican governor’s proposed environmental legislation, particularly the pieces that formed the Department of Ecology. Together these forces laid the foundation for Ecology and our work today.

State and federal laws guide our work

The federal Clean Water Act and state statutes have been a foundation for our work and there’s been much progress since the 1970s. This milestone reinforces our need to keep vigilant as we move into the Act’s fifth decade.

Today, we can pause and acknowledge strides we’ve made in curbing industrial sources of pollution, but we also look head-on at a big, current challenge to the health of our state’s waters – polluted runoff from the land.

The EarthFix reporters took a long look at stormwater in their Oct. 17 story, “How We Got Into Such A Mess With Stormwater.” The underwater time lapse video of the storm drain at end of this piece is worth watching.

Read more about the Clean Water Act anniversary on EPA’s website.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Conversations about Washington's future — water for people, farms and fish

By Ted Sturdevant, Ecology Director

Washington's future quality of life depends upon its water future.

What kind of future that is – whether it’s marked by fighting over an increasingly limited resource or whether it spurs creative solutions that meet multiple needs – depends upon how we approach the problem.

My latest Conversations on Washington's Future message offers an insider’s view of how our state is turning water wars into water wins:  solutions that meet the needs of growing communities and agriculture, while keeping water in the streams for fish. This approach is doable – and it is working, on both sides of the Cascades.

To learn more: Conversations on Washington's Future

Follow these messages on: Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Air Time: Governor will lift Western WA burn ban

Air Quality Program, air monitoring update

The Governor's Office issued this news release at about 4:20 p.m. Friday (Oct. 12, 2012).

OLYMPIA – Due to today’s rainfall and additional rain in the forecast, Gov. Chris Gregoire this afternoon modified a statewide burn ban to lift the ban for counties in Western Washington starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 13th. For all counties east of the Cascades, an emergency proclamation declaring a State of Emergency and banning all outdoor burning will remain in effect through midnight Monday, Oct. 15th.

“Today’s rain is a welcome change,” Gregoire said. “The new weather pattern now covering parts of our state eliminates the need to continue the burn ban in Western Washington. With that said, now is not the time to let down our guard. I urge all Washingtonians to continue to take extra caution to prevent additional human-caused fires. And given the on-going dry conditions east of the Cascades, it makes sense to continue to ban all outdoor burning in Eastern Washington. We must continue to take every step possible to ensure firefighters on the ground can continue to focus on the challenges at hand.”

Gregoire made her decision after consulting with Department of Natural Resources Director Peter Goldmark and Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste.

The burn ban still in place for Eastern Washington prohibits all outdoor burning, including but not limited to:

• Campfires
• Bonfires
• Residential yard debris clean-up, trash disposal, land clearing, weed abatement and agricultural burning activity
• Ignition of fireworks.

Liquid fueled or gas-fueled stoves are permitted provided that use is conducted over a non-flammable surface and is at least five feet from flammable vegetation. Charcoal grills are permitted at private residences under the same conditions.

Meanwhile, air quality is still a concern in Eastern Washington. According to the state’s Department of Ecology, Trout Lake was experiencing “hazardous” air quality during the morning hours today, mostly due to strong smoke impacts from nearby wildfires. Monitors showed the air in Cashmere, Entiat, Wenatchee, Ellensburg, Toppenish, Rosalia, Pullman, and Maple Falls was “unhealthy for sensitive groups.”

Ecology is monitoring air quality across Washington state where smoke-filled air remains.

To check for air quality monitoring information, visit: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/air_monitoring_data/WAQA_Intro_Page.html

Meanwhile, the Washington State Department of Health is providing answers to frequently asked questions about wildfire smoke here: http://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/AirQuality/OutdoorAir/SmokeFromFires.aspx


Air Time: Rain brings hope of relief from wildfire smoke

Air Quality Program, air monitoring update

Here is the air monitor/weather update for Friday (Oct. 12, 2012) and the weekend.

Light rain is falling this morning (Friday, Oct. 12, 2012) and winds are picking up in areas of Western Washington, but some communities east of the Cascade Mountains continue to be impacted by wildfire smoke.

Trout Lake was experiencing “hazardous” air quality during the morning hours, mostly due to strong smoke impacts from nearby wildfires. Monitors showed the air in Cashmere, Entiat, Wenatchee, Ellensburg, Toppenish, Rosalia, Pullman, and Maple Falls was “unhealthy for sensitive groups.” Other monitors across the state reported a mixture of “good” and “moderate” air quality.

Winds are expected to increase this afternoon in Eastern Washington and help disperse smoke. Increasing winds will precede any precipitation, so it is likely that there will be areas of windblown dust around the Columbia Basin today. Some patchy, light rain is possible in Eastern Washington on Saturday with more rain Sunday through Monday.

“We can expect a trend toward improving air quality through Monday just about everywhere in Washington state. Models suggest that the Lewis-Clark Valley might be the last to clear out, as winds may not immediately penetrate down into the valley,” said Ranil Dhammapala, a forecaster for the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology).

Though rains won’t entirely put out wildfires in Eastern Washington or central Idaho, the threat of persistent smoke will ease for the next several days.

Even wildfires that are contained by firefighters can still produce smoke for weeks. The smoke can easily remain trapped close to the ground and impact nearby communities. Wildfires in central Idaho have been pouring smoke into area valleys for weeks. Easterly winds – though not expected in the immediate future – could transport the smoke into the Palouse and Lewis-Clark Valley, as they did Thursday.

While wildfire smoke is expected to decrease, smoke from burning wood to heat homes likely will increase as temperatures drop this time of year. People who use wood stoves or other wood-burning devices to heat their homes should always burn clean, dry wood and follow proper burning techniques. Never burn garbage – it’s illegal.

To protect people from wood smoke, Ecology and local clean air agencies issue bans on use of wood-burning devices when air quality degrades. Check http://waburnbans.net to see if burn bans have been issued in your area.

The National Weather Service's Air Quality Alert for Douglas, Chelan and Kittitas Counties expires at noon today: http://forecast.weather.gov/wwamap/wwatxtget.php?cwa=otx&wwa=air%20quality%20alert

The Governor’s burn ban covering all Washington counties expires at midnight Monday. The Governor’s proclamation (http://www.governor.wa.gov/proclamations/pr_12-17.pdf) allows local fire departments to issue written permits that approve specific burning activities. Please work with your local fire jurisdiction and your Ecology burn team staff to get the needed written authorization for specific agricultural burns. In some areas, air quality concerns or local fire danger may preclude burning during this extraordinary wildfire event.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Eyes Over Puget Sound for Oct. 8, 2012

By Sandy Howard, communications manager, Environmental Assessment Program

We’ve just posted the latest aerial photos of Puget Sound surface conditions taken on Oct. 8.

We continue to observe large red-brown blooms in finger inlets in South Sound, Quartermaster Harbor and the Kitsap Peninsula —in particular in Sinclair Inlet.

We had a successful air-to-ground collaboration with the Squaxin Tribe and the Sound Toxin Program that allowed us to address phytoplankton species blooming in Budd, Henderson Inlet and Sinclair Inlet.

Jellyfish patches are getting numerous and large in Budd Inlets and Henderson Inlet.

Eyes Over Puget Sound” combines high-resolution photo observations with satellite images, en route ferry data between Seattle and Victoria BC, and measurements from our moored instruments.

Sign up to receive email notifications about the latest “Eyes Over Puget Sound” by subscribing to Ecology’s email listserv.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Air Time: Smoke still lingering; rain on the way?

Air Quality Program, air monitoring report

Here is the air monitor/weather update for Monday (Oct. 8, 2012). For more information about wildfires, see http://wasmoke.blogspot.com.

Smoke from wildfires in Washington and Idaho is still affecting residents of Washington in several areas as the state moves into a fifth week of poor air quality. The Governor's burn ban has been extended to cover all Washington counties, and now runs through midnight on Monday, Oct. 15, 2012.

Don't expect the wildfires to be doused with rain this work week. Though firefighters have been making great progress in fighting the fires, they continue to smolder. For several days, however, computer models have been hinting at a change to more typical cooler and wetter October weather, possibly starting this coming weekend.

Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) air quality monitors indicate Wenatchee, Omak, Entiat, Cashmere, Trout Lake and Clarkston are all in the "unhealthy" category this morning, while Leavenworth, Ellensburg, Chelan and Pullman are recording "unhealthy for sensitive groups." Other monitors statewide are almost evenly split between "good" and "moderate" air quality. Most of Spokane is reading "moderate."

According to Ranil Dhammapala, air quality forecaster for Ecology, Western Washington was spared from most of the wildfire smoke yesterday, while far Eastern Washington felt the effects of some smoke from Idaho wildfires, especially in Clarkston and the Palouse. Eastern Washington should see a short-lived uptick in northerly winds this afternoon that will help disperse the smoke.

In addition, locally generated wood smoke is measurable at many sites across the state.

Easterly winds are gone and unlikely to return this week. Today and Tuesday should see mostly calm-to-mild winds, depending on the local terrain. Areas closest to the fires will see "unhealthy" air. Many parts of the rest of Washington will experience a mixture of "good," "moderate" and "unhealthy for sensitive groups" conditions, with some daytime clearing.

The National Weather Service issued an Air Quality Alert for Douglas, Chelan and Kittitas counties to run through Friday, Oct. 12, at noon: http://forecast.weather.gov/wwamap/wwatxtget.php?cwa=otx&wwa=air%20quality%20alert

The Governor's proclamation extending the burn ban is at: http://www.governor.wa.gov/proclamations/pr_12-17.pdf. The ban allows for local fire departments to issue written permits that approve specific burning activities. Please work with your local fire jurisdiction and your Ecology burn team staff to get the needed written authorization for specific agricultural burns. In some areas, air quality concerns or local fire danger may preclude burning during this extraordinary wildfire event.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Air Time: Governor expands burn ban

Air Quality Program, air monitoring update

The Governor's Office issued this news release at about 1 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 7, 2012). For more information about wildfires, see http://wasmoke.blogspot.com/.
OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today announced that an emergency proclamation declaring a State of Emergency and banning all outdoor burning has been extended through midnight Monday, Oct. 15th, and now includes all counties in Washington state.

“Washington state is experiencing a weather pattern like one we’ve rarely seen before,” Gregoire said. “The long, warm and dry spell has elevated fire danger across our state. Given that we don’t expect a significant amount of rainfall for quite some time, it makes sense to extend this proclamation and expand the burn ban. Extraordinary dry conditions across our state require that all Washingtonians exercise the utmost caution and allow fire crews to focus on the challenges at hand.”

“Most often it’s wind, or snow or heavy rain that causes us problems,” said Washington State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste. “In this case some very nice weather also has an extreme downside. While we’d all like to be camping or picnicking in the woods, open fires just can’t be a part of the mix.”

The burn ban prohibits all outdoor burning, including but not limited to:
  • Campfires
  • Bonfires
  • Residential yard debris clean-up, trash disposal, land clearing, weed abatement and agricultural burning activity
  • Ignition of fireworks
Liquid fueled or gas-fueled stoves are permitted provided that use is conducted over a non-flammable surface and is at least five feet from flammable vegetation. Charcoal grills are permitted at private residences under the same conditions.

The proclamation issued by the governor:
  • Directs state agencies and departments to continue to utilize state resources and to do everything reasonably possible to assist affected political subdivisions in an effort to respond to and recover from the fires;

  • Notes the order into active state service of the organized militia of Washington state, to include the National Guard and the State Guard remains in effect; and

  • Instructs the Washington State Emergency Operations Center to continue to coordinate all event-related assistance to the affected areas.
The state’s Department of Ecology is monitoring air quality across Washington state where smoke-filled air remains.

To check for air quality monitoring information, visit: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/air_monitoring_data/WAQA_Intro_Page.html

Meanwhile, the Washington State Department of Health is providing answers to frequently asked questions about wildfire smoke here: http://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/AirQuality/OutdoorAir/SmokeFromFires.aspx

Friday, October 5, 2012

Air Time: Air quality still degraded in some areas, better in most

Air Quality Program, air monitoring update

Here is the air monitor/weather update for Friday through the weekend (Oct. 5-7).

Fine particle monitors this morning (Friday, Oct. 5) show "unhealthy" air quality in Wenatchee, "unhealthy for sensitive groups" in Ellensburg, and "moderate" air in Leavenworth, Darrington, North Bend, Clarkston, Aberdeen, and Shelton, according to the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology).

All other monitors are reporting "good" air quality, though data from the U.S. Forest Service's temporary monitors have not been reported since Thursday afternoon.

Most areas saw some clearing Thursday afternoon. In Western Washington, haze could be seen overhead but did not mix down to the surface in significant amounts. Satellite imagery shows smoke well over Puget Sound, the San Juan Islands and the Pacific coast. Smoke from Idaho and Montana wildfires was reaching the extreme southeastern parts of the state. Expect several areas south of Everett to see some smoke when the overnight inversion breaks this morning. Similar smoke behavior can be expected in and around Shelton, Aberdeen, Longview, Vancouver, Clarkston, and Walla Walla.

However, winds will remain strong enough that it's unlikely the air quality in those areas will deteriorate to worse than "unhealthy for sensitive groups." A red flag warning for dry east winds remains in effect across the Cascades and northwestern Olympic Peninsula; these winds could accelerate fire growth through Sunday morning.

Communities close to wildfires could experience stronger smoke impacts. Night and morning smoke can be expected, followed by some afternoon clearing.

The weekend forecast calls for similar conditions. Winds are expected to relax a bit further. Mixing heights may reduce because of an inversion, but computer models don't indicate widespread air stagnation.

The National Weather Service issued an Air Quality Alert for Douglas, Chelan and Kittitas counties through noon Monday: http://forecast.weather.gov/wwamap/wwatxtget.php?cwa=otx&wwa=air%20quality%20alert

There continues to be a burn ban east of the Cascade crest. The Governor's proclamation (http://www.governor.wa.gov/proclamations/pr_12-16.pdf) allows for local fire departments to issue written permits that approve specific burning activities. Please work with your local fire jurisdiction and your Ecology burn team staff to get the needed written authorization for specific agricultural burns. In some areas, air quality concerns or local fire danger may preclude burning during this extraordinary wildfire event.

For more information:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Air Time: Expected winds mean mixed news for smoky areas

Air Quality Program, Air monitoring update

While today (Monday Oct. 1, 2012, started relatively calmly, moderate winds are entering the scene ahead of a cold front later today, both clearing the air and potentially spreading wildfires.

According to Washington Department of Ecology air quality forecaster Ranil Dhammapala, a strong cold front dropping into Eastern Washington this evening will herald a shift to cooler weather through the rest of this week.

“The cat among the pigeons, however, is the risk of a rapid spread of fire along the east slopes of the Cascades due to strong winds and low relative humidity,” Dhammapala said. “Additionally, blowing dust across the Columbia Basin on Tuesday could restrict visibility and cause travel headaches.”

Unfortunately, for those who are still suffering through smoky days and nights, the approaching front appears to carry no precipitation except possibly tonight in the North Cascades and far northeastern parts of the state.

Cashmere and Wenatchee are reporting “very unhealthy” air this morning. Ellensburg and Trout Lake are reporting “unhealthy” air, but are expected to worsen throughout the day. Entiat and Maple Falls are reporting “unhealthy for sensitive groups.”

Sites in the western Columbia Basin and Yakima Valley are reporting “moderate” air as are Kennewick, Mesa and Moses Lake. All other sites statewide have relatively clear skies.

Cool air will continue to flow into Eastern Washington from the north on Wednesday but winds should relax. Another frontal system is expected by Thursday, but it too carries little or no precipitation.

Gov. Gregoire also has extended a burn ban in Eastern Washington until midnight Sunday night, Oct. 7. The ban does not apply on tribal lands where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has jurisdiction.

Joint blog on wildfire smoke and related information: http://wasmoke.blogspot.com

Check for air quality monitoring information: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/air_monitoring_data/WAQA_Intro_Page.html

Washington Department of Health smoke information: http://www.doh.wa.gov/Newsroom.aspx