UW-Extension air quality improvement project under budget
Work intended to prevent fumes entering airport basement
BY KEVIN BONESKE
Work completed earlier this year on a project to address complaints about fumes in the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport basement, where the county’s University of Wisconsin-Extension office is located, has come in under budget, county buildings and ground director Lu Ann Brunette reported Monday.
Though the airport and the county each agreed to cover half the cost with total project expense not to exceed $20,000, Brunette told the Buildings and Grounds Committee the county’s share came to $9,307.92, for which the committee members present at Monday’s meeting approved paying.
“With regard to air (quality issues in the UW-Extension workspace in the airport basement), there have been none reported during the last month,” Brunette said. “So, I think that’s a very positive (development) for over in that area.”
For years, there has been an issue with how to handle situations when some UW-Extension staff members reported they were not able to work in the airport basement when they noticed the presence of fumes from diesel exhaust, which has been more prevalent during the winter months.
Diesel exhaust was confirmed in the airport basement, during time periods when a jet aircraft was on the ramp or baggage was being unloaded, in an “industrial hygiene survey” completed in February 2016 by Sharon Bessa of Bessa and Associates and Daniel Karamanski of the UW-Extension.
However, that survey also found the various emissions detected that could be related to diesel exhaust, such as nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide, did not exceed allowable federal limits for the workplace.
The county Conservation and UW-Extension Education Committee last year recommended that the UW-Extension office be moved out of the airport basement, but that proposal didn’t receive the financial backing from the Administration Committee and the full County Board.
The UW-Extension last year requested an “air evaluation study,” which was conducted by R.E. “Bear” Daniel of the architectural, engineering, environmental and planning firm ISG. Daniel traveled to the airport Nov. 23 to meet UW-Extension personnel and investigate the existing conditions while also receiving input from Extension employees regarding their perception of the objectionable fumes.
The study recommended a series of measures to put in place that included:
- Completely enclosing the three heating, ventilation and air conditioning ducts located in the baggage tunnel where they traverse from the mechanical room to the northeastern-most storage room.
- Installing a pressurized air curtain at the point the baggage conveyor enters the tunnel.
- Installing an air filtering system on the HVAC ducts supplying air to the northern lower-level office and storage areas.
The study also noted there is a chance that “under certain atmospheric conditions” objectionable fumes could travel over the wall that separates the parking lot area and the runways and get into the building’s HVAC air intake, though the study described the likelihood of that as a “rare occurrence.”
The county’s Buildings and Grounds Department presently has a contract with the Airport Commission for a 20-year lease – which took effect March 1, 2015, and runs through Feb. 28, 2035 – for the UW-Extension to use 3,713 square feet downstairs at the airport. Though the county has been paying $40,000 annually for the lease, the contract could to be terminated with a six-month notice.