Information sought on air quality plan
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 W. 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.
A regular meeting of a local airshed advisory group will be held in the same location this Thursday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m.
She said written and oral comments will be accepted at the hearing, Nov. 29. Those comments will be recorded and become part of the plan entitled “Cache Valley Idaho PM2.5 Non-attainment Area State Implementation Plan (SIP).”
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.
“These small particles pose the greatest risk to human health because they can lodge deep into the lungs and some particles may get into the bloodstream,” states a summary of the SIP.
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.
Much of 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 winter months.
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.
Those interested in knowing what air pollution levels are in Franklin County can now check on the 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 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.
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.
The national Clean Air Act requires states to submit an air quality improvement plan to the Environmental Protection Agency for concurrence when an area has been designated non-attainment. Since the Cache Valley non-attainment area spans Utah and Idaho and two EPA regions, both states are required to develop a SIP.
For further information about air quality monitoring in the Franklin County area contact Gibbs, at 236- 6160 or email her at: email@example.com
This story is sponsored by The Preston Citizen Bookstore and FCMC Maternity Services.
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