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December 5, 2009
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Garfield County air quality brochure now available

RIFLE, Colorado - As part of an ongoing effort to keep track of air quality in Garfield County, the county's environmental health department has produced a brochure to educate residents about the issue.

Titled "A Citizen's Guide to Air Quality Management in Garfield County," the 12-page brochure is available at the county's public health department, 195 W. 14th St. in Rifle, and will soon be posted on the county's web sites, according to Environmental Health Manager Jim Rada.

The guide also is to be available at other county offices and at town halls, libraries and other locations.

Rada said on Friday that the study takes into account the recent population growth in the county, associated with both the oil and gas industry, and with a more general influx of people attracted to the area for a variety of reasons.

The brochure states that "increasingly, landowners and residents of oil and gas field communities are reporting health concerns that they believe are associated with the energy development."

But, Rada noted, there are other sources, such as automotive exhaust and airborne dust, that need to be studied.

Among the non-gas-industry sources, he said, are the local agricultural industry, which uses fire as an important tool; wood-burning stoves that sometimes are not as efficient as they should be; and the burning of residential garbage piles in some areas.

"We are not diminishing, at all, the impact of a growing oil and gas industry on our air quality," Rada stressed.

But, he said, "We all contribute" to air pollution in various ways, "and we need to identify the key contributors and then develop appropriate strategies to deal with them."

In general, he said of the results of the two-year program, "Air quality is still good. We're not violating any federal air quality standards."

But, he said, there are indications that particulates in the air, and chemicals called "volatile organic compounds" that often are associated with gas-industry activities, need to be monitored.

"We don't want them to get any worse," he said.

The brochure identifies a variety of airborne pollutants that are measured and regulated by government, including nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, lead, carbon monoxide and ozone, and particulate matter such as dust, mold and pollen.

The brochure also cites EPA standards of roughly 190 compounds as hazardous, including several that are emitted by natural gas wells and related production equipment.

The study found that such locally detected chemicals as benzene, toluene, ethyl-benzene and zylenes [known as the BTEX compounds in gas industry parlance] were decreasing prior to 2005 but "have shown increasing trends" since.

Plus, the brochure states, "Particulate emissions have increased with increased natural gas development activities," although they also come from wood-burning, forest fires and other sources.

The brochure outlines a variety of information sources for air quality data, including the county's website at www.garfield-county.com, the county health department's own air quality site, www.garfieldcountyaq.net and state websites.

Rada said on Friday that he hopes to have the brochure posted on the web by the end of December at the latest.

jcolson@postindependent.com


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The Post Independent Updated Dec 5, 2009 02:18AM Published Dec 5, 2009 01:41AM Copyright 2009 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.