Air quality monitoring coming to Glenwood
Garfield County Environmental Health officials are hoping to gather air quality data from the Glenwood Springs area in advance of the planned Grand Avenue bridge construction expected to start late next year.
The county’s mobile air monitoring unit, which has been located in Battlement Mesa for the last two years, will be moved to a site to be determined in or near Glenwood Springs for 2015, county commissioners agreed Monday.
The mobile unit, which is one of five air monitoring stations in the county, has been located in Battlement Mesa for the past two years. It will likely be returned to that area in advance of anticipated new natural gas drilling in the Battlement community starting in 2016.
During a recent meeting of the county’s Air Quality Technical Work Group, potential interim locations to obtain air quality data were discussed, said Morgan Hill, environmental health specialist for the county.
In addition to Glenwood Springs, use of the mobile unit along the Garfield-Mesa county line near DeBeque was also suggested, Hill said.
Glenwood Springs makes sense, she said, because it has not benefited from the county’s air quality efforts since the program has expanded to include baseline testing for additional compounds.
The anticipated two-year bridge construction would also make it more difficult to have the facility in Glenwood during that period of time, she said.
The county plans to return the mobile unit to Battlement Mesa in 2016, when Ursa Resources is expected to move forward with its plans to drill for natural gas within Battlement Mesa. That plan is expected to be considered by the county sometime next year.
“Once Ursa starts up, I think we do need to be back in Battlement,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky agreed. “Once new drilling starts, there are going to be a lot of questions about air and water quality.”
In the meantime, “Glenwood would be a good beneficiary of this information,” Commissioner John Martin said, adding there’s currently a gap in air quality data within the lower Roaring Fork Valley between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.
The county will work to find a good location to position the mobile unit in the Glenwood area, but Martin suggested the city’s fire station on Four Mile Road.
The county’s air quality program also includes a total of four stationary monitoring sites in Carbondale, south of the Colorado River near Silt, in downtown Rifle and in Parachute.
County commissioners renewed contracts Monday totaling $236,253 for sample gathering and testing services from two companies as part of the county’s ongoing air quality monitoring program.
“I would like to point out that no other county in Colorado does anything close to what we’re doing here,” Commissioner Mike Samson noted.
The voluntary air monitoring program was one of several programs mentioned by county and other Western Slope officials during last week’s meeting in Rifle of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Oil and Gas Task Force among the many efforts intended to stay on top of potential health concerns.
According to the county’s new environmental health manager, Joshua Williams, the air quality technical group is also working to develop a long-term strategic plan that will guide the monitoring program into future years.
Such a plan would evaluate the existing monitoring sites and identify possible new sites, outline urban versus rural priorities, compare existing conditions to trends over different periods of time, establish more ways to share the data and other information with the public, and create a template for the program going forward, he said.
In addition to the county’s own air monitoring program, the county is helping to fund an ongoing Colorado State University study to test air quality specifically near natural gas well pads during the actual drilling process.
A report to the Garfield County commissioners on that ongoing study is expected sometime early next year.
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