May 19, 2008

Monitors in Western Colorado Set to Track Smog

It's been a long time coming, but Colorado health officials are finally getting around to installing more ground-level ozone monitors in western Colorado.

According to the health officials, ozone monitors are going to be installed in the town of Cortez, in Montezuma County, in Palisade, near Grand Junction, and in Rifle, located in Garfield County.

The monitors are getting installed in time to start tracking ozone levels this summer. Ground-level ozone, the key ingredient of smog, is a widespread and harmful air pollutant that can trigger asthma attacks, keep kids from school, and even lead to premature death.

Some ozone monitoring has been done in parts of western Colorado, but the monitoring hasn't been rigorous enough to know whether or not we're complying with federal health standards that limit ozone. Sporadic monitoring in 2006 and 2007 in Garfield County, the epicenter of Colorado's latest oil and gas drilling boom, found that ozone levels exceeded federal health limits at times. Unfortunately, the monitoring wasn't continuous enough to know for certain whether federal health limits were met.

The only complete ozone monitoring that has been undertaken so far in western Colorado has been on the Southern Ute Reservation and in Mesa Verde National Park, all in the four corners region of southwestern Colorado. This monitoring has been undertaken by National Park and tribal officials, and while these monitors haven't yet violated federal health limits, they've shown some high readings. One monitor in La Plata County on Southern Ute land showed ozone levels as high as 82 parts per billion last summer. Current health standards are set at 75 parts per billion.

Although we agree wholeheartedly with Christopher Dann, the public information officer with the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division, that "People are the best monitors," we're pleased that more rigorous ozone monitoring is set to get started this summer.

No comments: