Air quality continues to improve in county
Garfield County continues to see a decline in air pollutants and airborne chemical compounds, based on data collected through the county’s air quality monitoring program during 2014.
“It’s all good news, I would say, and in every sense things are dropping,” said Cassie Archuleta, project scientist with Air Resource Specialists of Fort Collins, which has been measuring and compiling ambient air quality data for the county since 2008.
Archuleta, along with county Environmental Health Specialist Morgan Hill, presented the preliminary 2014 air quality monitoring report to county commissioners Monday.
A full report of data related to ozone levels, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for last year is to be completed and posted to the county website by the end of June, Hill said.
The preliminary report is based on data collected at four stationary monitoring sites scattered throughout the county, in Parachute, Rifle, south of Silt and outside Carbondale, and one mobile unit that was located in Battlement Mesa until the start of this year.
That unit is now in downtown Glenwood Springs, at Vogelaar Park, where it will be used to collect data through at least 2015, Hill said.
The Garfield County-funded program is one of just a few county government-sponsored programs in Colorado. It was begun in the late 2000s in answer to public concerns about the county’s air quality related to heightened oil and gas activity in the region.
The program measures ozone levels related to “precursors” such as nitrogen oxides and VOCs, as well as two type of particulate matter, PM-10 and PM-2.5, which are regulated by the EPA.
Garfield County had readings in the Rifle area exceeding National Ambient Air Quality Standards on just two occasions, once in 2008 and another time in 2012, but has never had any EPA violations, Archuleta said.
Those instances were likely due to wildfires, rather than other pollution-causing activities, she said.
Violations are based on three-year averages for exceeding daily maximums on multiple occasions, Archuleta explained.
Garfield County has not come close to violating federal air standards in any year. In more recent years, including 2014, the readings have continued to improve, she said.
Also measured in the county’s monitoring program are 90 different VOCs, for which there are no EPA standards but which are considered hazardous air pollutants.
Those include compounds associated with oil and gas activity and common to urban areas, such as benzene and formaldehyde. Also measured are propane and ethane, which are more specific to oil and gas production, but are not considered hazardous pollutants, according to the report.
Again, measurements for most VOCs in the county were highest in 2008 when the monitoring program began, and have fallen off during the ensuing years. The downward trend also happened to coincide with a decline in natural gas drilling in the Piceance Basin of western Colorado during the past few years.
VOC concentration levels do tend to be higher in the Silt, Rifle and Parachute areas than those measured at the Carbondale monitoring station, which has been in place since 2012.
The county’s air quality monitoring reports, including real-time air-quality data, can be found on the county’s website, at http://www.garfield-county.com/air-quality/.
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