Scientists Study Air Quality Along Jakolof Bay Road

Ariel Van Cleave

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SVT Environmental Assistant Tracie Merrill checks air monitoring equipment outside Seldiovia (photo provided)

     The Seldovia Village Tribe’s Environmental Office has placed air monitoring equipment along Jakolof Bay Road. There is a concern the amount of dust that gets kicked up because of traffic may cause problems for area residents.

     Two high-volume air samplers are sitting along the road in two different spots. 

     “The high-volume samplers definitely stand out. You don’t miss them. They’re… about five, six feet in height, silver, they have a dome-shape head to them. So it’s very UFO-like,” SVT Environmental Assistant Tracie Merrill said.

     The monitors are collecting what’s technically called PM-10. But to us non-scientists, we know it as dust. There are also two smaller Dust Track II aerosol monitors. While the high-volume samplers run every three days, Merrill said the smaller aerosol monitors are running continuously.

     She said there are only six paved roads in Seldovia. Every other road is dirt. Mix that with dry conditions and heavy traffic and you’ll get dust clouds.

     “Last summer it was a pretty wet summer, so the dust wasn’t actually that bad. But this summer it was incredibly dusty because we didn’t have any rain. And we had some big trucks going by on the road and it just totally lowered your visibility. Just a plume of dust around you,” she said.

     Merrill said those dirt roads are used by pedestrians, bikers and people with ATVs. She said visibility is an issue out there. Health also is a concern. She said anyone with pre-existing conditions like asthma can only have those symptoms aggravated by those small particulates in the air. It can also cause other respiratory problems. Merrill said the samples could lead to ways of cutting down the amount of dust.

     “We could take it to the state and see if they’d be able to do more dust-control measures. If you actually show them data and say look how high some of these values are, it might encourage them to do it a little more frequently,” she said.

     She said the findings may go to the Environmental Protection Agency as well, if the levels are above what’s suggested for air quality standards. The SVT environmental staff will be monitoring dust levels until September. 

     The high-volume monitors are on loan from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. Merrill said this is the second year of monitoring. She said SVT has been able to pay for the project through a grant with the Alaska Tribal Health Consortium. 

 

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