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What is Smoke School?

Powerhouses, asphalt plants, rock crushers, incinerators, "dirt burners," cruise ships, and many other structures produce varying levels of emissions. These "stationary sources" are required by their state operating permits to have certified opacity readers. These readers evaluate the emissions. The opacity limits varies depending on operating permit and federal and state regulations.

Every six months, Alaska Environmental Resources, LLC provides a certification course. A certified opacity reader can accurately evaluate the emissions and "read" the percentage of light blocked by the visible emissions.

Night field trials are offered in Alaska in the fall. Many Alaska Title V Operating Permits require both day and night certification for winter night opacity observations. However, night certification is not required in the spring.

New opacity readers are required to complete the online classroom and successfully pass the associated quiz before attending a field exam. The field exam employs a smoke generator that produces both black and white smoke. Once participants pass the field component they receive a certificate that is valid for six months.

Kenai BEACON Fire Training Facility

Kenai BEACON Fire Training Facility

In accordance to advice from John Pavitt, from the US EPA Region 10  Alaska Operations Office, the certificate is valid for a strict six months. For example, a person becoming certified on April 15 would have a certification that expires on October 15.  Otherwise, 6 months could stretch into almost 7 months, for example April 1 through October 31.

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