State lawmakers seek to revise the definition of air pollution and require an air quality inspector to act on a complaint of an odor or emission in a pubic area.

House Bill 1637 is co-sponsored by Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle and Rep. Javier Valdez, D-Seattle.

The legislation redefines air pollution in the Clean Air Act to include any odor or air emission that unreasonably interferes with a person’s use or enjoyment of a public space. The definition describes an odor as anything sufficiently noxious or offensive as to prevent normal use of a facility, or that creates a risk of adverse health effects.

HB 1637 requires an air quality inspector, on behalf of a Clean Air Act enforcement authority, to investigate a nuisance complaint of an odor or air emission in a public area. A nuisance is an activity that injures health, offends decency or renders other persons insecure in life or in the use of property, the bill states.

Stuart Clark, air quality program manager from the Department of Ecology, testified in opposition of the bill at a public hearing on Wednesday. He explained that the bill could work against clean air by diluting and confusing existing enforcement authority and increase potential legal challenges to agency actions.

“We believe that the Clean Air Act is already quite strong and broad in the authority that it gives us and local agencies,” Clark said. “We believe that changes are unnecessary.”

According to the bill, authorized municipal governments and certain regulatory agencies may file a civil action against the source of an odor or emission after repeated findings of a nuisance or health hazard.

Nancy Ousley, assistant city manager of Kenmore, testified in support of the provision with concerns about an asphalt plant near Lake Washington and the Burke Gilman Trail. The city has received numerous complaints from citizens and businesses about fumes from the plant, she said.

“We are supportive of having more practical ways for people to weigh in when they are experiencing discomfort,” Ousley said. 

Margaret Moore, resident of Northeast Seattle, spoke in support of improving air quality in public parks. Moore is a cyclist who pedals over 4,000 miles per year and frequently rides through Kenmore.

“When I bike on the Burke Gilman trail past the Kenmore plant, the exhaust fumes flow directly across the trail,” said Moore. 

The cyclist suffers from recurrent sinus infections related to exposure to air pollution. An athlete running or biking draws air deeply into their lungs where these particles do a large amount of damage, she said.

“The stench is bad enough, but what really bothers me is more is the impact on the air quality and what it is I’m breathing,” Moore explained. “It is an unacceptable public health hazard.”

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