Garfield County air quality officials address smoke concerns | AspenTimes.com

Garfield County air quality officials address smoke concerns

Alex Zorn
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Garfield County commissioners received an update on the air quality at both ends of the county on Monday, as concerned citizens continue to see smoke from area wildfires to the east, and also worry about the impact from natural gas drilling in west-end neighborhoods.

Garfield County Environmental Health Specialist Morgan Hill said air quality levels remain moderate around Carbondale, while air quality health advisories continue to be issued for parts of Eagle and Garfield counties due to the wildfire smoke.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, southwestern Eagle County and areas in the White River National Forest just north of Basalt Mountain are most affected by smoke from the Lake Christine Fire.

The CDPHE put the advisory in effect from Monday at 8 a.m. to Tuesday at 9 a.m.

“Areas of smoke from the Lake Christine Fire are impacting mainly rural parts of southwestern Eagle County Monday morning,” states the CDPHE advisory. “Areas experiencing moderate to heavy smoke are mainly confined to sections of the White River National Forest just to the north of Basalt Mountain near Cattle Creek.

“Farther south, smoke concentrations have generally improved for locations within the Roaring Fork Valley including Basalt and El Jebel. By Monday afternoon, smoke will generally move to the east of the fire.”

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Occasional periods of light to moderate smoke could move to locations further southeast including Snowmass and Aspen, according to the Colorado smoke outlook for Monday.

Hill said smoke from the Lake Christine Fire does not appear to be drifting into Carbondale as much as the El Jebel and Basalt areas. But the entire county, and all of the Western Slope, is being impacted by multiple wildfires burning around the region.

Hill suggests that folks in the affected areas stay indoors if smoke is visible, and recommends the five-mile visibility index to test conditions outside.

“If you can’t see more than five miles away, the air at that point can become unhealthy, and that’s where they should take precautions,” she told the Post Independent.

She adds that the county’s new wildfire smoke page [https://bit.ly/2v0NQfF], which will include a wildfire smoke blog for concerned residents, is up and running.

The site will provide regular updates on what folks are seeing and any precautions they should take.

BATTLEMENT MESA AIR QUALITY

Hill told the Post Independent after her Monday presentation that there weren’t any new takeaways regarding air quality in Battlement Mesa, where the county continues to monitor for any impacts from drilling activity. Levels for volatile organic compounds (carbon-based and hydrogen-based chemicals that exist in the gas phase or can evaporate from liquids) remain at or below the annual average, she said.

“All air concentrations of individual and combined volatile organic compounds were below long-term, non-cancer health guideline values established by state and federal agencies,” according to information presented to the commissioners.

Hill added that she is planning on giving an in-depth analysis on Ursa’s Phase I drilling operations in Battlement Mesa at a later meeting. The full report will include all sampling taken from March 2017 to the end of Phase I completions.