Volume 105, Number 14 - April 3, 2008
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Ozone levels lower in town
Although the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has only been monitoring ozone just outside the Town of Pinedale for the past two months, data so far indicates that ozone levels in town aren’t the highest in the county.
The DEQ installed a temporary ozone monitor at the Pinedale Airport, about five miles south of town, in mid-January as part of the agency’s annual wintertime ozone studies.
The monitor has occasionally recorded ozone levels at above 80 parts per billion (ppb), but not on as many days as unhealthy limits have been recorded at the permanent monitor station in Boulder, said Dave Finley, administrator of the Air Quality Division (AQD) of the DEQ.
“(Ozone) shows fairly high concentrations in the vicinity of Boulder, and then begins to tail off (farther north),” Finley said, referring to data from both the monitors and other airplane-collected samples. “There’s some elevated concentrations above the airport, but it begins to tail off again as you go toward Pinedale, and remains tailed off toward Daniel.
“It’s not a complete three-dimensional picture of ozone in the Upper Green, but it does suggest, as does our Daniel monitor data, that ozone formation is generally occurring south of Pinedale.”
The AQD has yet to calculate the eighthour ozone averages from the Pinedale Airport monitor, and can’t provide specific dates when the pollutant levels exceeded the National Ambient Air Quality Standard of 75 ppb.
The DEQ originally installed three ozone monitors within the Upper Green River Basin in 2005, with one in Boulder, one in Daniel and one in the Jonah Field. The monitor locations were then based on development pattern predictions, but the DEQ is currently reviewing the locations and other potential sites.
“Given how circumstances have changed from 2005 to now, it’s probably reasonable to put an ozone monitor in the Town of Pinedale,” Finley admitted, though he couldn’t predict when that would happen.
The DEQ will also continue ozone studies in Sublette County for as long as three more years, Finley said, which will help delineate local ozone patterns.
Data might change if the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approves gas field operators’ request to build 4,000 new wells year-round.
Operators insist that year-round drilling will allow them to obtain contracts for cleaner drilling technologies like a liquid gathering system and natural-gas-powered rigs, but Finley didn’t know if that would balance out the accelerated drilling necessary for thousands of new wells.
“I think a better characterization would be that if cleaner rig technology were used to drill wells in the area, the emissions situation would improve,” he said.
For now, Finley predicts that despite recent snowfall that helps break up Nitrous Oxide (NOx) and create ozone, constant winds should blow the pollutant out of Pinedale.
“Yea for wind,” Finley said. “Cold and windy is good.”
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