Due to an agriculture burn in Fruita this week, Grand Junction residents may have noticed hazy skies throughout most of Wednesday. Local air monitoring data showed a sharp spike in pollution creating poor air quality for the day.
Tom Orr with Mesa County Public Health said the ag burn in Fruita created most of the smoke.
"Ag burns are not an abnormal occurrence in Mesa County as prescribed or agricultural burns are allowed year-round," he said.
With this type of burning, residents in sensitive groups, including people with heart or lung disease, older adults and young children may want to stay indoors and consider limiting outdoor activity if there is visible smoke in the air, according to Mesa County Public Health.
Though air monitoring data showed good air quality by Thursday morning, according to monitors set up around Grand Junction, several of the site locations showed spikes up to 120-130 AQI on Wednesday.
AQI (Air Quality Index) is an index used to report daily air quality, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Zero to 50 AQI, shown as green on the map, represents good air quality conditions, whereas 101 to 150 AQI, shown orange on the map, represents air quality conditions that are unhealthy for sensitive groups.
When AQI values are above 100, air quality is considered to be unhealthy, at first for certain sensitive groups of people, then for everyone as AQI values get higher, according to the EPA.
Several of the local air monitoring sites showed good air quality conditions throughout the week, until a spike to over 100 AQI on Wednesday, but were back to green by Thursday.
Orr explained that Mesa County issues air advisories based on forecasts.
"This is a one-day event that caught us by surprise," he said. "It's something we are monitoring and if it continues we will issue an advisory."
Mesa County Public Health issued an Air Watch Advisory on Thursday afternoon informing folks that the prescribed burn was ongoing in Fruita.
Mesa County issues 1,700 burn permits a year, said Orr.
Citizens for Clean Air Vice President Kristin Winn said yesterday's spike was an eye opener for her as the air quality impact from the nearby ag burn was immediately apparent.
She said, generally, Grand Junction is fortunate because of its topography but variations in wind can have a dramatic impact on the air quality depending on what's being picked up.
"We always suggest that if you have any kind of health issues to check citizensforcleanair.org to see what the air quality is looking like that day," she said.
Citizens for Clean Air is a nonprofit organization that works to research and reduce air pollution and promote better air quality in Mesa County and the Western Slope.