Dust monitoring up in air | AspenTimes.com

Dust monitoring up in air

Janet Urquhart

Aspen’s attempts to measure the dust in its air are admittedly flawed.The grit at street level is likely worse than what’s picked up by the monitor that tracks it, which is located atop the Pitkin County Library off Mill Street.At least one Aspen resident was surprised this week to learn the monitor for PM-10, as particulate pollution is officially known, is up in the air – literally. James March wonders if the monitor’s lofty perch has anything to do with readings that indicate Aspen’s springtime dust is nowhere near violating state standards.”Why in the world is the PM-10 monitor 40 feet in the air, above the soot/smoke, where the prevailing breezes have a chance to keep things fresh?” he asked in an e-mail, responding to an Aspen Times report on PM-10 levels. “How about bringing it down to street level, where we are all trying to live/work?”This wouldn’t concern me if I were able to walk around at a 40-foot elevation, but I’m stuck at street level, trying to breathe, in what is often a most visible cloud of dust and diesel that hangs over Main Street and other streets,” March said.He’s right, according to Lee Cassin, the city’s environmental health director.”It’s giving us lower readings than some sites would give us,” she conceded.The monitor is higher than Cassin would prefer, and also farther from Main Street than she’d like.But there are complex federal standards for placement of a PM-10 monitor, Cassin said. It’s supposed to be in a “worst-case” spot to get a true sense of the particulates in the air, but it also has to be a certain distance from trees, buildings and other objects that interfere with the movement of air, she said. If the monitor was at street level, for example, its distance from the nearest building is supposed to be two and a half times the height of that building.The monitor used to be located on the former library building, a one-story structure on Main Street that is now in private hands. Trees would prevent it from being located there now, she said.So the not-so-aesthetic-looking device – it’s “big and silver” – is on the library roof.”It’s not the best location, but it’s the best we could come up with,” Cassin said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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