Air monitoring station up and running near Carbondale
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
CARBONDALE, Colorado – A new Garfield County air quality monitoring station is at work just west of Carbondale collecting data on air pollution, a county official said this week.
“We’re up and running,” said Paul Reaser, director of environmental health for Garfield County.
The monitor represents the first time the county government has conducted air quality monitoring in the Roaring Fork Valley.
“It’s a completely different air shed than the Colorado River Valley,” said Paul Reaser, director of the county’s environmental health office.
He said the monitor is designed to analyze air samples from the Roaring Fork and Crystal river valleys, as well as the Thompson Divide region, where energy companies have announced plans to drill wells.
The equipment stands in a field owned by the Colorado Rocky Mountain School, north of the campus.
Although the monitoring device has been collecting data for more than three months, it will be months more before enough data has accumulated to offer conclusions about air pollution patterns in the area, Reaser said.
“These air quality monitoring sites are a long-term proposition,” Reaser told the Post Independent. He expects to gather a full year’s worth of data before trying to arrive at conclusions about air pollution.
He said the monitor is set up to screen for PM-10 and PM-2.5 particulates (tiny bits of dirt or other material, which can cause health problems if inhaled), ozone and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) drifting eastward from oil and gas drilling activities in the western part of the county.
Reaser explained that the county wants to know more about how VOCs are behaving in the region’s air sheds. The monitor is calibrated for more than 90 types of VOCs typically found near oil and gas drilling and pumping facilities.
But the monitor is not testing for hydrogen sulfide, H2S, a toxic VOC that has been detected at dangerously high concentrations near drilling operations in western Garfield County, according to state reports.
The compound has been detected at high levels at certain drilling sites operated by Noble Energy, according to Stephen Flaherty, community relations director for the company.
But industry officials, as well as scientists with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, have said the incidence of H2S in the portion of the gas-rich Piceance Basin within Garfield County is negligible and does not pose a threat to human health.
“It’s my understanding that the oil and gas in this region just does not have a lot of H2S,” Reaser said.
He added that the monitor is checking for what are known as the BTEX (pronounced bee-tex) compounds typically associated with petroleum extraction activities – benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes.
All four are listed as toxic substances by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Benzene is considered a cancer-causing agent, while toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes are associated with harmful effects on the human nervous system.
The CRMS monitor, Reaser said, is part of an expanded air monitoring program ordered by the Garfield County commissioners, which also includes a mobile air monitoring station.
The mobile monitor is slated initially for use in the Battlement Mesa area, Reaser said.
The idea, he said, is to better establish a baseline of air quality data there, in advance of expected intensive gas drilling activity in the neighborhood by the Antero Resources energy company.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
A major wreck Monday night near Dotsero involving five vehicles, including two semi-trailer trucks, was caused by a car heading in the wrong direction on Interstate 70, a Colorado State Patrol spokesman said.