At last, Aspen’s a breath of fresh air |

At last, Aspen’s a breath of fresh air

Janet Urquhart

Aspen’s air has been given a clean bill of health, 17 years after the feds cracked down on the mountain town for its particulate pollution.

An official with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment awarded plaques to both Aspen and Pitkin County on Wednesday to herald the area’s removal from the federal government’s “PM-10 nonattainment list.”

The Air Quality Improvement Award honors the community’s efforts to drastically reduce PM-10 levels ” PM-10 refers to particulate matter smaller than 10 millionths of a meter in size.

Aspen was designated a PM-10 nonattainment area in 1987 by the Environmental Protection Agency. Aspen’s all-time high for PM-10 was 236, recorded in 1991. That was the fourth worst PM-10 reading ever recorded in Colorado.

Various programs implemented by the city and county to cut PM-10 levels, however, have produced consistently acceptable readings for the pollutants, resulting in the community’s reclassification as an “attainment area,” according to Mike Silverstein, with the state agency’s Air Pollution Control Division.

Paid parking and increased mass transit, street sweeping and fireplace and restaurant grill restrictions and enforcement have all helped reduce PM-10 in Aspen.

Last year, Aspen’s highest PM-10 reading was 70 millionths of a gram in a cubic meter of air. The federal standard is 150 ” not to be exceeded more than once per year. Aspen’s highest reading in 2002 was 59.

Local efforts to control PM-10 and monitoring of the pollutants will continue to be required, Silverstein said.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is

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