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To Protect Vulnerable Communities in Preparation for Wildfire Smoke in the Puget Sound Region, City of Seattle Upgrades Community Centers, Seattle Center Buildings with HVAC and Air Filtration Systems

City of Seattle Will Also Recognize Smoke Ready Communities Day in Puget Sound Region With Resource Fair and Tips from Public Health Officials Tomorrow, Wednesday, June 19

Seattle (June 18, 2019) – In anticipation of potential poor air quality as a result of wildfire smoke this summer, Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today announced plans to implement enhanced indoor filtering at select City facilities. Between July and September in both 2017 and 2018, Seattle saw a total of 24 days of increased air pollution due to wildfire smoke. For two days in 2017 and four days in 2018 air quality reached the Unhealthy for All stage.

“It’s time to prepare for what may be our new normal,” said Mayor Durkan. “As wildfires become more prevalent in our region and smoke from wildfires becomes a growing concern, we are doing everything we can ensure that our communities are prepared. By upgrading our public facilities to provide cleaner indoor air, we are ensuring our residents have a safe location to breathe more easily in extreme conditions.”

Mayor Durkan will also join public health officials and representatives from King County Public Health, The American Lung Association, Seattle Parks and Recreation, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, the Pacific Science Center, Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, and more tomorrow, June 19th at Rainier Beach Community Center (8825 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118) to provide Seattle residents with resources to stay safe and healthy as part of Smoke Ready Communities Day. The resource fair begins at 12:00 pm, and the speaking program will begin at 1pm.

To prepare for smoke season, the City is investing in five public facilities to implement enhanced indoor air quality pilot projects. Each facility will be outfitted with robust air filters that include impregnated carbon to reduce pollutants in the air. These facilities include:

  • Rainier Beach Community Center, 8825 Rainier Ave. S.
  • International District/Chinatown Community Center, 719 8th Ave. S
  • The Armory at Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St.
  • Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center, 305 Harrison St.
  • Exhibition Hall at Seattle Center, 301 Mercer St.

Rainier Beach Community Center, the International District/Chinatown Community Center and Seattle Center Armory are free and open to the public at all times. Fisher Pavilion and the Exhibition Hall at Seattle Center are frequently used as event spaces, but will be available when not otherwise occupied.

Most community centers throughout the City were built when our summer weather was predictably cooler, relying on natural ventilation as a passive cooling strategy. All of the facilities that are a part of this pilot already have central cooling, which allows us to provide enhanced indoor air quality. Upgrading these facilities as a part of this pilot will help us determine what types of improvements older buildings will require to provide improved indoor air quality.

At the community centers, access doors have been sealed to prevent air leaks; at other locations, air curtains are being installed to prevent smoke from entering the building, and air scrubbers approved to the highest industry standards will be placed in select areas. These strategies will help to reduce the fine particulate matter found in woodsmoke that is particularly harmful to children, pregnant women, elderly persons, and people with heart or respiratory conditions. Everyone is encouraged to visit their doctor to understand how exposure to wildfire smoke is likely to affect their health.

“Working to understand the nuts and bolts of retrofitting older buildings for cleaner indoor air is an important climate crisis adaptation strategy,” said Jesús Aguirre, Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) Superintendent. “Recreation and other public facilities – like community centers and the Seattle Center Armory – are open to everyone. Somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of the region’s homes do not have cooling or indoor air filtration. Our goal is to help communities find respite from the poor air quality that are caused by regional wildfires.”

As the City works to achieve its goal of carbon neutrality in 2050, more and more community centers will be converted from natural-gas fired boilers to electric heat pumps that offer heating in the winter and cooling in the summer. With the conversion of each of these facilities, we both mitigate our contributions to the climate crisis and adapt to a changing climate.

To better understand the effectiveness of the cleaner indoor air pilot project at community centers, SPR has partnered with Dr. Dan Jaffe, Professor of Environmental Chemistry and Chair of the Physical Sciences Division at the University of Washington. Dr. Jaffe and his students will support the pilot by helping analyze and interpret air quality monitoring data collected inside and outside the community centers. Dr. Jaffe is a widely recognized expert on global transport of pollutants, and was chosen as the Fulbright Distinguished Chair of Environmental Sciences.

“Climate change is here now, and will be for the foreseeable future,” said Dr. Jaffe. “Prioritizing adaptation strategies, like cleaner indoor air, shows that the City of Seattle is a climate crisis leader. I’m glad the City is doing this work, and I’m happy to partner with them.”

In addition, the City of Seattle is spearheading a combined effort of Pierce, King, Kitsap, and Snohomish Counties to declare to prepare their communities for potential poor air quality from wildfires by declaring June 19th Smoke Ready Communities Day. Seattle will host a resource fair at the Rainier Beach Community Center on Wednesday, June 19th to help residents learn more about how their families can be smoke ready.