Upgraded station monitoring air quality in local wilderness | AspenTimes.com

Upgraded station monitoring air quality in local wilderness

An air-quality measuring station atop Aspen Mountain has been expanded to do a more thorough job of monitoring air pollutants on the edge of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

The device is a cooperative project of the Aspen Wilderness Workshop, U.S. Forest Service and Aspen Skiing Co. Friday’s dedication of the improved system was timed to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness and the federal Wilderness Act.

Dan Matthews, wilderness ranger for the Forest Service at the Aspen Ranger District, said the air-monitoring device collects samples by drawing air through a filter. It has been upgraded from a one-filter system to a four-filter setup, enabling it to intercept a greater variety of particles.

The filters are removed weekly and sent to a laboratory at the University of California-Davis for analysis, Matthews said. The lab can test pollutants caught in the filters to detect combinations of pollutants that can be traced to their origin by a distinctive “fingerprint.”

The Maroon Bells Wilderness, one of the original wilderness areas, is a Class 1 “airshed,” managed to maintain the cleanest air, Matthews said. Air pollutants can have negative effects on water quality and visibility in wilderness areas, he said.

Other wilderness areas in the region, including the Flat Tops Wilderness north of Glenwood Springs and the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness northeast of Vail, have single-filter air monitoring systems.

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