Group: Ozone violation a first for Western Slope

Ozone levels in Rio Blanco County have violated federal limits, the first time that’s happened in western Colorado, an environmental group says.

WildEarth Guardians said today the high ozone levels were detected at a monitor in Rangely, and trigger stricter air pollution controls and a mandate on the state to clean up the pollution. An emerging wintertime ozone problem in Rio Blanco County may be related to oil and gas development in the Uinta Basin, centered just over the border in Utah, the Environmental Protection Agency has said.

WildEarth Guardians says Colorado’s Air Pollution Control Division is scheduled to discuss the Rangely findings as part of a presentation on the 2013 ozone season to the Air Quality Control Commission Thursday.

Ozone is a key ingredient of smog and forms when air pollution from vehicles, smokestacks and oil and gas drilling react with sunlight. It can cause respiratory problems in sensitive populations such as children, the elderly, those with asthma, and even active adults, and can cause premature death, WildEarth Guardians says.

A violation occurs when the three-year average of the fourth-highest annual ozone readings in an area exceeds 0.075 parts per million. WildEarth Guardians says Rangely’s average is now 0.077 ppm. It says a monitor in nearby Vernal, Utah, this year recorded ozone concentrations above the standard 22 times, and Vernal’s fourth-highest reading is now 0.1 parts per million.

Ozone is more commonly a summertime problem in urban areas. But high wintertime readings also have been detected in rural Pinedale, Wyo., another area of gas development. Sunlight reflecting off snow is thought to contribute to the problem.

“With Colorado’s Western Slope now violating federal smog standards, it’s critical that the state respond quickly to restore our clean air and the health of this state,” Jeremy Nichols of WildEarth Guardians said in a news release. “Smog is clearly a statewide issue and it deserves statewide solutions that work.”


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