By John Griffith
The Nugget Newspaper, Sisters, OR
9/25/2012 1:19:00 PM
Smoke from the Pole Creek Fire has caused problems in Sisters schools. Julie Benson, CFO/CEO of ENERGYneering Solutions, Inc. wanted to see the problem fixed. Energyneering President Benny Benson put his head together with his engineering team and came up with the most direct solution: Install HEPA filters for the schools HVAC systems. So they ordered them. The first of the HEPA filters were to arrive Tuesday and the second set will arrive about 10 days later, at a total cost of about $10,000. A “Clean Air for Kids” fund has been set up at Bank of the Cascades for those wishing to help with the expense of this solution. The Rotary Club of Sisters has already donated $1,000 to the cause. High-Efficiency Particulate Air, or HEPA, is a type of air filter that is often used in medical facilities and assembly plants where cleanliness is critical. HEPA, by U.S. government standards, is an air filter that removes at least 99.97 percent of all particles greater than 0.3 micrometers from the air that passes through. This is important because, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) website, “Fine particulate air pollution consists of solid particles or liquid droplets that are less than 10 microns in diameter (PM10) or less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5). Particles in these size ranges are of great concern because they can be inhaled deeply into the lungs where they can remain for years. The health effects of particulate matter vary with the size, concentration, and chemical composition of the particles.” (A micron is the outdated term for micrometer which is 10-6 meters.) The DEQ monitors the air in Sisters hourly. In the Pole Creek Fire update meeting Thursday, DEQ’s Frank Messina showed slides indicating these hourly readings. The slides showed that the regular evening temperature inversions had driven the air in Sisters to the hazardous level consistently every morning since the early days of the fire. “These reading are really through the roof,” said Messina. “This is really nasty. DEQ has never seen airquality at this sustained (hazardous level) ever.” While the firefighters continue to make good progress in containing the Pole Creek Fire, they won’t extinguish the burning material contained between the fire lines. The fire will only be put dead out when all the fuel is consumed or with the first good rains or snow. Until then, the smoke will continue to be an issue. Bill Aney of the U.S. Forest Service Long Term Assessment Team told the assembled group Thursday night that the 30-year statistics pointed to the end of the fire season being in mid-October this year. The fire and smoke cycle can be expected to continue at some level until then. And on smoky mornings that are expected to continue, Sisters schools will have much cleaner air.
ENERGYneering Solutions, Inc. (ESI) provides engineering, construction, and operations services for the renewable energy industry. Their core business has been biogas-to-energy facilities, which has been extended to include biomass. ESI provides services for more than $30 million in renewable energy power plants internationally, nationally and locally, not the least of which is the new biomass boiler at Sisters HighSchool, dedicated by Governor John Kitzhaber last October. The Bensons also own and operate Sisters Eagle Airport where their business is housed.