Improvements would address complaints of fumes in workplace
BY KEVIN BONESKE
In response to ongoing complaints about the odor of diesel exhaust in the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport basement, where the county’s University of Wisconsin-Extension office is located, the county’s Buildings and Grounds Committee agreed Monday to forward a possible solution to the county’s Administration Committee for consideration by that committee next month.
County Conservation and UW-Extension Education Committee chairman Bob Mott and UW-Extension Youth Development/4-H agent Lynn Feldman appeared Monday before the Buildings and Grounds Committee, which supported actions recommended late last year in a study the UW-Extension requested to address the odor issue.
For years, there has been an issue in the airport basement as to how to handle situations when some UW-Extension staff members report they are not able to work in the airport basement when they notice the presence of fumes from diesel exhaust, which is 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 Feb. 9-12 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, though 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 and listed the approximate costs that include:
- 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. The anticipated cost for that work as recommended in the study would be from $3,000-$5,000.
- Install a pressurized air curtain at the point the baggage conveyor enters the tunnel. The cost would be approximately $5,000.
- Install an air filtering system on the HVAC ducts supplying air to the northern lower-level office and storage areas. A system like this would cost in the range of $6,000 to $7,000, not including the yearly cost of filters. This approach would be included if the recommendations for the baggage conveyer tunnel would not remove the objectionable fumes to an acceptable level.
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.”
Given the estimated price tag of up to $17,000 in an effort to get rid of the fumes, buildings and grounds director Lu Ann Brunette noted that airport director Joe Brauer has offered a 50-50 split of the costs between the county and the airport to do that work.
Being that the problem with the fumes has been the most noticeable in the winter months, Brunette said she hopes the work could be put on the “fast track” so that it could take place before this coming spring.
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.