Data collected from state air monitoring systems show the Butte has some of the worst air quality in the Mat-Su.

Mat-Su Borough planner Ted Eischeid says on very cold days, the low-lying Butte is likelier to see temperature inversions which can trap smoke from burning wood. It's also less likely to get the high winds that Palmer does, just a few miles down the road.

"These are ideal conditions for an inversion where you have cold, dense air trapped with warmer air further up," Eischeid explained. "And when you burn smoke in that it doesn't like to leave the area."

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has two air-quality stations in the Mat-Su to track airborne particulates. One type is caused by dust blowing in the wind; the other kind is the result of smoke from woodstoves and slash-pile burning.

Borough environmental planner Brianne Blackburn uses that information to send out alerts when the levels get too high.

"The particles are so small you can breathe them into your lungs and they can pass through from your lungs to your bloodstream," she said. "So it's really problematic for young kids and elderly people who maybe are already compromised."

Borough staff are holding an open house this week to educate Butte residents on steps they can take to help improve air quality.

Blackburn understands woodstoves are an essential heat source for many Alaskans, but says there are measures that cut down on pollution.

"If you burn with wood in your house make sure you have well-seasoned, dry wood," she said. "That burns much more efficiently than wet, green wood and is more efficient for people as well. It burns hotter and produces more heat for your home."

The meeting will also give people information about conditions that cause inversions. In addition, the borough is asking people to avoid burning debris outside on days when inversions occur.

"I think people are responding to that message. They're getting educated about air quality signs. I think everyone is in this together and they recognize clean air is kind of an Alaskan right and good for everyone."

The borough's Butte air quality meeting will take place Tuesday night at Butte Elementary School at 4006 Butte Rd. An open house begins at 6 p.m. and a presentation will start at 7 p.m.

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