By ROBERT S. MERRILL
Those interested in knowing what air pollution levels are in Franklin County can now check on an Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) website or call a 24-hour hotline at (208) 239-5028.
Based on federal standards, DEQ calculates a daily Air Quality Index (AQI) based on the most current 24-hour average concentration of particulate matter (PM2.5), according to Melissa Gibbs, Airshed Coordinator at the DEQ office in Pocatello.
The Franklin County area currently does not meet the national 24-hour PM2.5 air-quality standard, she added.
“The AQI will be posted on DEQ’s website each weekday morning and, if an air pollution episode is predicted or present, on Saturday and Sunday mornings as well. The hotline is updated every Monday through Friday during the spring, summer and fall months. It will be extended to weekends and holidays between November and February when temperature inversions and air pollution seem to be worst,” she said.
The website and hotline also indicate whether residential wood heating is allowable or restricted, depending on air quality conditions, said Gibbs.
Franklin County and all incorporated towns in Franklin County this past summer adopted a wood-burning ordinance which bans using older wood stoves on bad air days. The exception is if it is an only source of heat or creates a financial hardship. Newer EPA-approved wood stoves are also exempt from the rule.
Franklin County and most areas of Cache Valley experience poor air-quality events during stagnant wintertime conditions due to temperature inversions that trap pollution by acting as a lid on the bowl-like topography of the area. As a result pollution in the valley sometimes exceeds federal health-based, air-quality standards, especially during the winter.
“Depending on conditions, air quality is rated on a six-step scale. Cautionary statements are provided to inform susceptible population groups on actions they can take to limit exposure,” said Gibbs.
She said residents can receive daily updates via email by subscribing to DEQ╒s Daily Air Quality Reports and Forecasts page, clicking on the “Subscribe to this page” link, selecting a location and entering an email address.
For further information about air quality monitoring in the Franklin County area contact Gibbs, at 236-6160 or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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