By ROBERT S. MERRILL
A public informational meeting to seek input on a draft Cache Valley air quality improvement plan will be held on Thursday, Nov. 29, at 5:30 p.m. at the Franklin County Extension Office, 561 West Oneida, Preston.
A public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the same location following the public meeting, according to Melissa Gibbs, Department of Environmental Quality airshed coordinator.
She said written and oral comments will be accepted at the hearing.
The plan is entitled “Cache Valley Idaho PM2.5 Nonattainment Area State Implementation Plan.” It demonstrates how the area will comply with the national ambient air quality standard for fine particulate matter referred to as PM2.5, she said.
Exposure to fine particles is linked to a variety of serious health problems including decreased lung function, chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, irregular heartbeat, non-fatal heart attacks and premature death in people with heart or lung disease, she explained.
She said based on monitoring data it has been determined Cache Valley, spanning Idaho and Utah, has failed to meet the 24-hour standard for PM2.5. Contributing factors include wood stove emissions, vehicle emissions and mobile dust.
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.
Franklin County and all incorporated towns in Franklin County this past summer adopted a wood-burning ordinance which encourages people to refrain from 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.
Gibbs said the draft plan outlines a variety of control measures and contingency measures to improve air quality. Some key elements are:
• implement residential wood-stove combustion ordinances to control burning during air quality alerts.
• keep the public informed of air quality conditions and associated protective actions.
• reduce the amount of wintertime road-sanding material.
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 Gibbs.
“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,” she said.
The website and hotline also indicate whether residential wood heating is allowable or restricted, depending on air quality conditions, said Gibbs.
“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,” Gibbs said.
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
This story is sponsored by Elect Marc Gibbs and Preston Drug.
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