Breathe easy: Glenwood’s air quality among western Colo.’s best |

Breathe easy: Glenwood’s air quality among western Colo.’s best

Air quality in Glenwood Springs and Rifle is among the best for cities in western Colorado, according to a new report issued by the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission.

And the commission has achieved its goal of improving air quality statewide, shifting from 12 dirty-air areas in 1995, including Aspen, Grand Junction and Denver, to none as of July 2002.

“We join only 14 other states that have no areas of air quality violations,” said Robert E. Brady Jr., of Lakewood, chairman of the air quality commission.

In rural Colorado, the largest sources of air pollution are street sand and road dust, which contribute an average of 75 percent of the pollution, and woodstove emissions, which contribute another 15 percent.

The remainder comes from automobiles, industrial sources, blowing dust and wildfires.

That was the case in Glenwood Springs, Rifle and Parachute when the state’s air pollution control division began monitoring the air for tiny particles of dust, called PM-10.

In Glenwood Springs, a sensitive air pollution monitor atop the old City Hall at 8th and Cooper easily picked up samples of the dust churned into the air by thousands of cars driving up and down Grand Avenue, said Andrew McGregor, community development director.

But the city’s emphasis on street sweeping, a shift to magnesium chloride from road sand for winter de-icing, and a 1995 ban on new woodstoves and fireplaces have reduced air pollution, he said.

The state agency removed its monitors from Glenwood Springs and Rifle in July 2001, according to Mike Silverstein, a planner for the Air Pollution Control Division.

“After you collect clean data for so long, it’s time to take these monitors and look for problems in other places,” Silverstein said.

McGregor said the city could benefit from a continuous line of data on air quality, but understands the state’s priorities.

“They wouldn’t have stopped if we had a problem,” he said.

An air pollution monitor remains up in Parachute, where residents have raised concerns about pollutants from widespread gas drilling.

But the most recent reading available showed that airborne dust in Parachute was one-third of the allowable level in state standards, Silverstein said.

“That’s very clean air,” he said.

Air quality worsened throughout western Colorado in June and July 2002 due to wildfires, the report noted.

Recognizing that potential for pollution, the air quality commission adopted a new regulation in January requiring a permit for large or repeated controlled burns expected to generate more than 10 tons of particulates.

The permit requires land managers to reduce smoke from deliberately-set fires in ways that are technologically feasible and “economically reasonable.”

Aside from the wildfire season, few people complain about airborne dust and air pollution in Glenwood Springs, McGregor said.

“The only complaint we hear is of fugitive dust from construction sites,” he said.

“Ditch burning used to be a nasty time for a week or two in the spring, when they were out clearing the ditches, but there is so little ranching anymore, people think of it as being nostalgic and not a big deal,” he added.

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