Forecasters warn foothills residents about smoggy weekend

August 13, 2010

NEW — 3:30 p.m. Aug. 13, 2010

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency forecasters predict unhealthy smog levels for the Cascade foothills in King and Pierce counties Saturday and Sunday.

The forecast calls for hot and stagnant weather — conditions conducive to high ozone pollution levels. Exposure to ground-level ozone can trigger asthma attacks, make breathing difficult, weaken the immune system and exacerbate lung and heart problems.

The state Department of Health recommends for people sensitive to air pollution limit time spent outdoors. Air pollution can be especially harmful to children, people with heart and lung problems and adults older than 65.

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South Issaquah residents seek relief from odors

May 25, 2010

Air quality officials seek comments

Fed up with odors wafting from nearby Cedar Grove Composting, residents in the Four Lakes neighborhood south of Issaquah asked the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to do something about the smell.

Now, as the air quality agency considers a permit for the composting facility, Four Lakes leaders want community members to offer input.

The agency wants to consolidate five permits for projects dating to 1993 into a single permit. The permit requires, for instance, Cedar Grove to filter air and handle waste inside enclosed spaces. In some cases, the company has already taken steps called for in the proposal.

The draft permit does not allow for production increases or changes to the way the facility operates.

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency officials will accept comments on the proposal until June 15. The agency will also hold a community meeting June 3 at Maple Hills Elementary School.

Cedar Grove turns food scraps and yard waste from more than 500,000 households in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties into compost at the Maple Valley facility.

The agency has received almost 8,000 complaints about the facility since 1988, with most of the complaints related to odor. Downwind residents reported burning eyes and throats as a result of the stench.

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Washington gets mixed grades for air quality

May 18, 2010

Washington’s air quality scored mixed grades for ozone and particle pollution in the 11th annual American Lung Association’s State of the Air report.

According to the report, Clallam and Clark counties are among the cleanest counties in the nation for ozone air pollution.

The report also shows that people in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties are breathing dangerous levels of ozone or particle pollution, a public health issue that impacts even healthy individuals, as well as those most at risk, including children, the elderly and people with chronic health conditions, like diabetes, heart and lung disease.

“‘State of the Air 2010’ proves with hard data that cleaning up air pollution produces healthier air,” said Astrid Berg, executive director of the American Lung Association in Washington. “We need to put that message to work, so that policies that can protect Washington residents from pollution can be put into effect.”

The State of the Air report is an annual, national air quality report card that assigns A-F grades to counties across the country, and ranks cities and counties most affected by the three most widespread types of pollution (ozone or smog, particle pollution or soot, and 24-hour particle pollution levels).

The 2010 report uses the most recent quality-assured air pollution data, collected in 2006, 2007 and 2008. The report also details trends for the 25 most polluted cities across the country. Grades for the 1,000 counties with air pollution monitors can be found by typing in a ZIP code here.

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County officials encourage residents to celebrate Earth Day

April 22, 2010

NEW — 6 a.m. April 22, 2010

Earth Day turns 40 on Thursday, but local officials plan to keep the annual eco celebration fresh with events and initiatives.

King County Council members proclaimed Thursday as Earth Day. The county will host the Earth Day Expo at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle.

The event will feature speakers and vendors to help attendees learn more about how to reduce their carbon footprints and live a “green” lifestyle. Participants will also receive discounts and incentives for eco-friendly products and services.

“Annual Earth Day celebrations have been very successful at raising awareness about the challenges we face in preserving our natural environment as well as the many solutions available,” Councilwoman Kathy Lambert — who represents Issaquah and other parts of the Eastside — said in a statement. “For example, it is great to see people taking many steps to help our environment, such as bringing their own cloth bags to the grocery store.”

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Growing legacy: Issaquah reigns as Tree City USA

April 20, 2010

The mayor and city brass gathered to celebrate Arbor Day last April beneath dull gray skies — a bare, drab scene unlike the leafy canopy shading Issaquah streets in summertime.

City leaders and residents gather every spring to plant the official Arbor Day tree: a Burr oak near Gibson Hall last year, a crabapple at Grand Ridge Elementary School the year before. The annual ceremony serves as more than a photo opportunity.

Officials will mark Arbor Day indoors next week, with a presentation by city Open Space Steward Matt Mechler to the municipal Park Board.

Issaquah, designated as a Tree City USA for the past 16 years, is required to observe and proclaim Arbor Day to maintain the designation. Officials mark the day with a tree planting, and select a ceremonial tree for each occasion.

City Arborist Alan Haywood oversees the urban forest and ensures that Issaquah keeps the Tree City USA distinction — no small feat in a city where tree canopy covers 51 percent of the municipality.

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Fireplace, woodstove use OK; burn ban lifted

December 9, 2009

UPDATED — 2:55 p.m. Dec. 13, 2009

Go ahead, light a crackling fire to combat the brutal cold. A burn ban for all wood-burning fireplaces and devices was lifted Sunday morning.

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency officials lifted the ban after air quality improved.

The agency enacted the first burn ban of the winter heating season Wednesday. The ban included King, Kitsap and Pierce counties, and was enacted because cold weather conditions and increased fireplace use created unhealthy pollution levels for young children, seniors and people with heart and lung problems, officials said.

During the Stage 2 burn ban, no burning is allowed in any wood-burning fireplaces, woodstoves, fireplace inserts or pellet stoves unless the sources provide the only available heat source.

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Hundreds of volunteers needed to plant trees

October 13, 2009

More than 200 Mountains to Sound Greenway volunteers will plant trees at Lake Sammamish State Park from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Oct. 17 to kick off the fall tree planting season. The event will begin a campaign to plant more than 25,000 native trees and shrubs in several natural areas in the greenway. Read more

Fire roars through woodpile at Cedar Grove Composting

August 18, 2009

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A compost fire at Cedar Grove Composting Aug. 17 is fought by a stream of water from a tank truck. Maple Valley Fire Department tankers, company trucks, bulldozers and backhoes also attacked the fire. By Greg Farrar

A fire at Cedar Grove Composting sent smoke billowing into the air early Aug. 17 as crews worked to contain a blaze that began in a woodpile.

Though firefighters quickly contained the blaze at the composting facility south of Issaquah, authorities said the heap could smolder for hours after flames were doused.

Maple Valley Fire & Life Safety crews responded to a report of a fire at about 5:45 a.m. Flames engulfed a compost pile and sent smoke billowing into the air. Firefighters contained the blaze within 45 minutes while news helicopters hovered overhead.

Maple Valley Fire Chief Larry Rude said the blaze was “very, very well contained” by 9:30 a.m.

Crews sealed the smoldering area beneath dirt and compost to starve the flames of oxygen. Rude said light winds and quick action by Cedar Grove employees prevented the fire from spreading. Read more

Cedar Grove Composting fire began in woodpile

August 17, 2009

UPDATED — 10:35 a.m. Aug. 18, 2009

Firefighters contained a blaze at a Cedar Grove Composting woodpile early Monday morning. Authorities monitored air quality near the facility south of Issaquah.

Maple Valley Fire & Life Safety Chief Larry Rude said the blaze was “very, very well contained” by 9:30 a.m. Monday.

Maple Valley fire crews responded to a report of a fire at about 5:45 a.m. Flames engulfed a woodpile and sent smoke billowing into the air. Firefighters contained the blaze within 45 minutes, while news helicopters hovered overhead.

By 9:30 a.m., crews were sealing the smoldering area with dirt and compost to starve the flames of oxygen. Rude said light winds and quick action by Cedar Grove employees prevented the fire from spreading.

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Crews are monitoring a smoldering compost heap at Cedar Grove Composting. — By Greg Farrar

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Ozone pollution, caused by persistent heat this week, may create health risks

July 29, 2009

NEW — 2:20 p.m. July 28, 2009

Persistent high temperatures are raising ozone pollution in the greater-Seattle area and increasing health risks for sensitive populations, including children, teens, the elderly, people living with COPD, asthma or other lung disease, and people who work outdoors.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency announced today that air quality is expected to reach the “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups,” or orange category, for some locations in King County. The American Lung Association in Washington is asking residents to take precautions and limit their exposure to unhealthy levels of air pollution.

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