State official says city air quality improving |

State official says city air quality improving

Avi Salzman

— The top official in charge of making sure the state’s air is safe and clean said Wednesday that the air quality in and around Steamboat Springs is better today than it has been in more than a decade.

After the city was designated a non-attainment area for violation of limits on the amount of microscopic particles (PM10) in the air by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1993, it took measures to make air quality better.

Those steps included sweeping the street of dust particles four times after every sanding in the winter, restricting the number of solid fuel and wood burning stoves allowed and attempting to reduce the fine sands that can harm people’s lungs. The city and county collaborated in these efforts.

And now the work has paid off, said Mike Silverstein of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment at an air quality meeting Wednesday.

“I’m here tonight to say that was successful and those strategies will continue to be used in the future,” he said.

Silverstein, who is in charge of reviewing local plans that map out air quality improvement, said Steamboat has followed the plan it drew up in 1995 to address the air quality issue. The city and county track the city’s air quality with a monitor at the top of the Routt County Courthouse. City officials contend that the air quality problem had to do with fireplace use and weather inversions that force colder air down. The monitoring has helped the city tell when it needs to sweep more.

The city last exceeded the air quality standards in 1996.

The city and surrounding area is now designated an attainment zone by the state and has had certain regulations loosened, including reducing requirements to allow the city to sweep the street only twice after each sanding. But, as Street Fleet Superintendent Doug Marsh attests, the city’s efforts to reduce particles in the air will not be relaxed.

Marsh said the city sweeps regardless of state requirements and will continue to do so.

“The city has been really aggressive in their sweeping program that has yielded some real benefits,” said Routt County Environmental Health Director Mike Zopf.

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