Garfield County approves first-ever Roaring Fork Valley air monitoring program |

Garfield County approves first-ever Roaring Fork Valley air monitoring program

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Public health officials will soon begin monitoring ambient air quality in the lower Roaring Fork Valley – for the first time ever – looking for everything from harmful particulate matter to organic compounds associated with gas drilling activities.

The move comes partly in response to citizen outcry over Garfield County’s recent approvals for two gravel pit operations along Highway 82 near Carbondale – the Cerise Ranch and Blue pits near the junction of Highway 82 and Crystal Springs Road (County Road 103).

But the air quality monitoring program approved at the Sept. 19 meeting by the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) is not specifically aimed at the gravel pits, due to a lawsuit by the neighbors over the Cerise pit approvals.

“That [program] was put on hold until the lawsuit is settled,” said Garfield County Environmental Health Manager Jim Rada.

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Rada had proposed two separate air monitoring programs, one to check for dust from the two gravel pits, and a second to monitor general air quality in the portion of the Roaring Fork Valley within Garfield County.

At hearings about proposals to expand the Blue pit and start a new gravel mining operation at the adjacent Cerise Ranch, neighboring landowners complained that they have been dealing with dust from earlier gravel pits for years.

The gravel pit operators, LaFarge (Cerise pit) and Western Slope Aggregate (Blue pit), each countered that they had done all that was required of them to mitigate the dust generated by their operations, and both mining proposals were approved by the BOCC.

But neighbors living in the Wooden Deer subdivision, just uphill from the Cerise pit, filed a lawsuit in 9th Judicial District Court in early August, maintaining that the BOCC exceeded its authority and asking a judge to overturn the approvals.

As a result, the BOCC has decided to hold off on any monitoring to see what happens with the court case, Rada said.

In the meantime, however, the BOCC authorized approximately $36,000 for Rada’s department to buy equipment and begin sampling air quality in the area around Carbondale.

The board also approved an annual operating budget for the monitoring program, nearly $37,000, which Rada said will become an annual line item in his budget.

In a memo to the BOCC, Rada reported that he has gotten requests for air quality testing in the area, noting, “Concerns, real or perceived, have been associated with overall community and industrial growth, increased traffic, and potential oil and gas development in the Thompson Divide area.”

The equipment will be calibrated to measure for ozone, particulates of varying sizes, and “volatile organic compounds” or VOCs, which are known to be associated with oil and gas drilling activities.

With the sampling equipment operating 24 hours a day, Rada said, “That’ll give us an idea of what kind of compounds we might be dealing with.”

He said it will take some time to purchase the equipment and set it up, at a location that is yet to be determined. He predicted that it should be operational by the beginning of 2012.

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