From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 105, Number 13 - March 27, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Town Council hears ozone concerns

by Alecia Warren

The most pressing subject at Monday’s Pinedale Town Council meeting has raised concerns throughout the county in recent weeks: the air pollution alerts for high ozone levels.

Although the council holds little influence over air quality regulations, which are established by the state, citizens still voiced their concerns about potential impacts from the county ozone levels that have often exceeded legal limits in the past two months.

John Fogerty, member of the town Planning and Zoning Commission, questioned why the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) wasn’t monitoring ozone levels in Pinedale, as the agency measures ozone in Boulder, Daniel and on the Jonah Field.

He also said the town should take initiative in warning locals about the alerts.

“I was talking to a local person, a parent of two young children, who was not aware of the situation at all,” Fogerty said, pointing out that some people simply don’t read the papers or listen to KPIN. The situation can be dangerous for those who aren’t prepared, he added, as ozone can cause breathing difficulties for children, the elderly and those with asthma or other respiratory problems.

“Maybe the town should send out some information in people’s water bills that just says, ‘Be aware of it — you can listen to KPIN and check on Pinedale Online,’” Fogerty said. “The situation might get worse as the weather gets hotter. Most people are saying that’s not likely to happen, but it’s hard to tell what direction this is going in.” Pinedale resident Les Margo said the ozone is bad enough already.

“My dog is going blind because of the lack of ozone,” Margo said, repeating what her veterinarian Dr. Brent Dean told her.

“I’m worried about the small children, because if they’re out there running around without protection… If it’s making my dog go blind, it might make other people go blind, too.”

According to the Skin Cancer Web site, however, Margo was actually referring to ozone loss, or the affects of the hole in the ozone layer 12 to 50 kilometers up in the stratosphere. Although some studies have asserted that the resulting increase in UV-B rays can damage cataracts and cause blindness, this has nothing to do with groundlevel ozone levels caused by hydrocarbon emissions, which is what the recent county alerts referred to.

But residents still have a right to be concerned for their health, and many are, as was further demonstrated at the meeting.

Mayor’s Assistant Lauren McKeever presented the council with a letter signed by several county residents requesting a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment be conducted with the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Pinedale Anticline Project Area (PAPA) written by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The letter stated locals’ concerns with potential risks from energy development, particularly after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently gave the SEIS a rating of “environmentally unsound,” out of concern for the predicted elevated ozone levels.

The letter also alluded to the DEQ’s ozone alerts issued in the past few weeks, during which ozone levels rose above the legal limit of 80 parts per billion (ppb) and even exceeded 100 ppb.

“Of even greater concern than the revealed water and air pollution regulatory breaches are how many potentially un-discovered, and thus undisclosed, human health risks exist attendant to this continuing local energy development,” the letter read. “Health Impact Assessments are designed to address exactly this critical knowledge gap.”

Pinedale resident Carmel Kail, who authored the letter, said many locals want the BLM to do its job and investigate potential health problems associated with energy development. “This was something that was really overlooked in the SEIS,” Kail said. “I think it’s front and center now with the ozone alerts. The BLM just needs to decide it wants to do it.”

After convincing several locals like Municipal Court Judge Ruth Neely and biologist Rollin Sparrowe to sign the letter in support, Kail mailed the letter to multiple politicians and industry members in hopes that they will try to influence the BLM.

“Many people are not happy with the ozone alerts,” Kail said. “In fact, they’re rather shocking, and raise a lot of questions about other things. So it wasn’t very difficult to find people who said ‘yes, we do need to do something,’ and this seems like a good approach to getting some answers.”

Council member Nylla Kunard was one of the letter’s signatories, and she said she would help push the project forward in any way she can.

“We have a lot of health problems coming from the ozone, and there are other things that might end up coming into our air and water,” Kunard said after the meeting. “If we know what is there and the agencies that might be able to do something about it — I just think that’s important.”

McKeever said that because the letter arrived at the last minute, the other council members needed to take time to review it before the next meeting.

“I’m pretty sure (the mayor) is planning on signing it,” McKeever said. Mayor Stephen Smith did not return phone calls on Tuesday.

In other Town Council news:

— McKeever reiterated information to the council that had been presented by Dave Finley, DEQ Air Quality Division administrator, at the last County Commissioners’ meeting. McKeever said that Finley identified the county’s pollution as locally formed, not blown in from outside the valley.

The DEQ continues to study air quality monitors throughout the valley, not including Pinedale. “I’m not sure why,” McKeever said.

The DEQ also plans to conduct additional studies of industrial effects on the county’s air quality over the next three years, she said.

— McKeever also reported that by April 5, the town will have applied for $1.3 million in grants, half a million of which is requesting funding to purchase and annex 18 acres south of the town park that will otherwise be developed by its current owner.

— The council approved signing a contract with Stantec Inc. for the removal and disposal of sludge from the aeration lagoon, as well as lining installation.

— The council approved contracting WLC Engineering, Surveying and Planning to assist the town with applying for grant funding from the State Loan and Investment Board. The board, comprised of five elected officials, processes applications for loans, grants and guarantees from communities in the state.

— The council approved the Public Works’ request to purchase sodium silicate at a price not to exceed $25,000.

— Neely reported that the municipal court has processed 21 tickets in February: 15 issued by the Town Municipal Officer, one by the Animal Control Officer, and five by the Sheriff’s Department. Neely said this is the greatest success with tickets she’s seen in the last few years, which she attributes to the addition of the Town Municipal Officer.

— The council approved the second reading of Ordinance 437 amending section 15.04.040 of chapter 15.04 establishing a time frame for filing building applications.

— The council approved the second reading of Ordinance 438 amending section 17.65.070 of chapter 17.65 establishing a time frame for filing development plans for multi-family structures.

The next town meeting will be on April 7.

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