Air quality issues and solutions in sw colorado a state perspective
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Air Quality Issues and Solutions in SW Colorado – A State Perspective. Presentation to the Backyards Conference on Regional Air Quality September 15, 2005 Mike Silverstein Colorado Air Pollution Control Division. Topics to be Discussed.

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Air Quality Issues and Solutions in SW Colorado – A State Perspective

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Air Quality Issues and Solutions in SW Colorado – A State Perspective

Presentation to the

Backyards Conference on Regional Air Quality

September 15, 2005

Mike Silverstein

Colorado Air Pollution Control Division

Topics to be Discussed

  • Emissions Control System for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

  • Air Monitoring in the Four Corners Area

  • Particulate Matter in SW Colorado

  • Ozone in SW Colorado

  • Improving Visibility in SW Colorado

  • Mercury Issues in SW Colorado

  • Inspections/Permitting/Enforcement Activities in SW Colorado

  • Regional Oil and Gas Initiative

  • Four Corners Air Quality Task Force

Emissions Control System for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

  • The smoke generated by the coal-powered locomotives has been a chief source of complaints from local residents

  • As a result, a plan was cooperatively developed to reduce smoke impacts from the train

    • San Juan Basin Health Dept.

    • The City of Durango

    • The D&SNGR

    • The South Durango Neighborhood Association

    • Air Pollution Control Division

Emissions Control System for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

  • As a result, a sophisticated smoke collection and wet-scrubber system was installed in 2001 on the roof of the roundhouse

    • To collect engine smoke and sulfur dioxide coming up through the roundhouse vents

    • About $200,000 was spent on the controls

  • The control device capture efficiency is about 70%, which has improved ambient particulate matter concentrations by about 40%

Air Monitoring in the Four Corners Area

Particulate Matter

  • There are two air quality standards for particulate matter

    • PM10: particulates smaller than 10 microns

    • PM2.5: particulates smaller than 2½ microns

  • Small particles are associated with numerous health and environmental problems

    • Aggravates asthma, reduced lung function, respiratory illnesses, even premature death

    • Reduced visibility, ecosystem damage

Particulate Matter

  • Sources:

    • Fire, road dust, construction, agricultural activities, auto/truck exhaust, woodburning, power generation

  • Dust from unpaved roads is one of the largest sources of complaints

    • Dust mitigation plans are required

  • Natural events can also cause high PM levels

    • Wildfire and blowing dust

    • State is required to have plans to reduce health impacts from these events

Particulate Matter

  • Examples of local particulate matter reduction efforts include:

    • Road sweeping and paving

    • Alternative deicers replacing street sand

    • Anti-idling ordinances

    • Unpaved road and land-clearing dust mitigation plans

    • Woodburning reduction measures

    • Smoke management plans

Particulate Matter in SW Colorado

  • Particulate concentrations are relatively low in SW Colorado

  • State operates monitors in Durango, Pagosa Springs and Telluride

    • All monitors record particulate levels well below the standards

    • Pagosa Springs and Telluride are former nonattainment areas that are now attaining the standards due to their proactive and comprehensive measures

Four Corners Particulate Matter Data

Durango Particulate Matter Data

Durango Particulate Matter Data

Pagosa Springs Particulate Matter Data

Telluride Particulate Matter Data


  • Ground-level ozone triggers a variety of health problems including aggravated asthma, reduced lung capacity, and increased susceptibility to respiratory illnesses like pneumonia and bronchitis

    • Ozone can also cause plant and ecosystem damage

  • Compliance with the 8-hour ozone standard:

    • The three-year average of the 4th maximum 8-hour ozone concentration at a monitor is below 0.085 parts per million (85 parts per billion)

    • Compliance with the standard does allow for concentrations exceeding 85 ppb


  • Examples of ozone reduction efforts include:

    • Mobile source emission reductions from new vehicles

    • Clean fuels standards

    • Off-road engine standards

    • Oil and gas initiatives

    • Reductions in power plant NOx emissions

    • Small engine emission standards

    • Non-traditional measures, such as reduced driving, auto maintenance, low solvent paints

Ozone in SW Colorado

  • Overall ozone levels in SW Colorado are below the level of this standard, though ozone concentrations approaching or exceeding the standard do occur

    • These occasional exceedances present a public health challenge, and efforts underway and planned should reduce ozone concentrations

Ozone in SW Colorado

  • APCD is closely tracking ozone levels in the 4-corners area

    • Ozone is a regional pollutant and all monitors in the region are recording values below the standard

      • Growth must be monitored

    • Northern NM is under an ozone EAC, and the area is anticipated to be in attainment through 2007 and 2012

  • APCD is also studying the effects of ozone transport and regional ozone issues in the west

    • Ozone and precursor transport may be important factors in causing high localized ozone

    • Rural ozone in a number of western sites indicated unusually high concentrations under varying conditions suggesting transport could significantly influence measured values

Four Corners Ozone Data

Four Corners Ozone Data


  • Visibility is generally described as the maximum distance that an observer can see a landscape viewed against the background sky

  • Visibility also refers to the clarity with which the texture, form, color, and details of the landscape can be seen


  • Major sources of visibility-impairing pollutants:

    • Combustion of fossil fuels for heat and power

    • Other burning, such as residential woodburning, incineration, and forest fires

    • Emissions from industrial/commercial processes

    • Evaporative emissions and solvent usage

    • On-road vehicles, such as cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles

    • Fugitive dust from unpaved roads

    • Off-road vehicles, such as aircraft, boats, locomotives, farm equipment, construction machinery and lawn mowers

Improving Visibility

  • EPA has developed regulations that States must comply with for reducing the impacts of regional haze and improving visibility in Class I areas

    • Regional haze is the term used to describe visibility impairment that results from air pollutant emissions from numerous sources, not just from emissions from a single source or small group of sources

    • Class I areas are those specified by the Clean Air Act as deserving special protection from visibility impairment

Colorado’s Class I Areas

Improving Visibility in SW Colorado

  • Plans are under development to improve visibility in Colorado’s Class I areas by 2018

    • This plan will include both State and regional emission reduction measures

    • It is likely that many emission sources that impact visibility in SW Colorado are located in surrounding states

      • Many upwind sources are reducing emissions

      • APCD will be working with these states to ensure that the appropriate emission reductions occur and that visibility will improve as required by federal regulation

  • The ultimate goal is to achieve natural conditions by the year 2064

Mesa Verde Visibility Information

Weminuche WildernessVisibility Information (same for La Garita Wilderness

Mercury Issues

  • Mercury is a naturally occurring metal, released into the environment from natural and human activities

  • Due to its toxicity, mercury remains among the highest priority toxics for reduction and elimination efforts

  • Human sources include:

    • Power generation from coal, steel production using mercury-containing scrap, uncontrolled run-off from historical mining sites

Mercury Issues in SW Colorado

  • CDPHE is actively addressing mercury emissions and impacts in SW Colorado

    • Primary efforts include supporting the air deposition research being conducted around two known mercury-impacted water bodies

      • McPhee and Narranguinnep Reservoirs, both near Dolores, have fish advisories due to mercury

    • An investigation of mercury deposition at Sanchez Reservoir (located in the San Luis Valley) is in the planning stages

Mercury Issues in SW Colorado

  • The Division continues to support the Mercury Deposition Network (MDN) activities at Mesa Verde, the site of one of the two Colorado-based MDN sites (the other is Buffalo Pass, near Steamboat Springs)

    • APCD contributes about $12,000 each year

    • Historically, Mesa Verde has shown some of the highest concentrations of mercury deposition in the country

Inspections/Permitting/Enforcement Activities

  • Air Division activities include:

    • Evaluating and developing air permits for sources

    • Inspecting sources to determine compliance with air regulations and permit conditions

    • Maintaining an inventory of air pollution emissions

    • Controlling open burning, dust emission, and the use of ozone-depleting compounds (chlorofluorocarbons)

    • Regulating asbestos removal and demolition activities, reviews school asbestos management plans

    • Implementing a wood stove program to ensure that stringent emission standards are met

    • Developing regulations to ensure that Colorado meets clean air goals and federal requirements

Inspections/Permitting/Enforcement Activities in SW Colorado

  • There are many sources that require permits and periodic inspection

    • San Juan County - 0 sources

    • Montezuma County - 3 major sources, 1 synthetic minor source, 39 minor sources

    • Archuleta County - 0 major sources, 1 synthetic minor source, 15 minor sources

    • La Plata County - 0 major sources, 10 synthetic minor sources, 76 minor sources

  • There are also many sources on Indian lands

    • However, the APCD does not permit, inspect or take enforcement action on them

    • Some of these sources are covered by EPA

Inspections/Permitting/Enforcement Activities in SW Colorado

  • The Division has performed 20 inspections in the region during 2005

  • The Division has also taken one enforcement action this year

    • One enforcement case settled in the area during 2004 resulted in Montezuma County receiving $37,974 to conduct a household hazardous waste collection and disposal project

Regional Oil and Gas Initiative

  • Oil and gas exploration and production is rapidly expanding throughout Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Region

  • Although air programs are in place, cumulative air impacts from oil and gas operations have been documented and will worsen as development expands

    • Traditional regulatory and enforcement options may not be sufficient to address the air quality impacts from expected development

Regional Oil and Gas Initiative

  • Local Air Quality Issues

    • Piceance Basin

      • 2003 modeled NOx NAAQS violation based on current NOx emission data

      • 23% increase in drilling activity from 2003 to 2004

    • San Juan Basin

      • ~500 wells in Colorado

      • 11,000 new wells in Basin

      • Cumulative impacts from all emissions, including oil and gas, are predicted to exceed visibility thresholds at Mesa Verde Nat’l Park & Weminuche Wilderness Class I Areas

Regional Oil and Gas Initiative

  • Intent of the Oil and Gas Initiative

    • Get ahead of potential air quality impacts

    • Support oil and gas development

    • Encourage emissions reductions through energy efficiency and resource capture through non-traditional solutions

Regional Oil and Gas Initiative

  • The ultimate goal is to develop and implement a productive and efficient program to decrease environmental impacts while maintaining the pace of development by:

    • Building consensus with other States on overarching goals of a program

    • Identifying options to achieve these goals

    • Collaborating with industry on implementation of options

Regional Oil and Gas Initiative

  • The initiative will result in:

    • Streamlined agency and industry interactions

    • The establishment of requirements for future development

    • The establishment of requirements for air monitoring

    • The establishment of requirements for existing sources 

Four Corners Air Quality Task Force

  • The Four Corners region is rich in oil and gas reserves and coal

  • Oil and gas production and coal-fired power plants result in large emissions of air pollution that may be degrading air quality

    • The Environmental Impact Statement drafted for the Northern San Juan Basin Coal Bed Methane Project identified air quality impacts as a possible environmental effect of increased oil and gas production in the region

    • Additionally, there are two proposed coal-fired power plants in the region: a 1,500 megawatt plant proposed on Navajo Nation lands and a 300 megawatt plant proposed north of Grants, New Mexico

    • These factors, plus population growth in coming years, may result in significant impacts upon air quality in the region

Four Corners Air Quality Task Force

  • The Four Corners Air Quality Task Force is being established to study air quality issues associated with present day and future anticipated air pollutant emissions in the Four Corners region

    • States, Tribes and federal regulators and land managers in the region have come together to comprehensively evaluate the impact of future development upon air quality

  • The Task Force will be open to all interested parties

  • Task Force activities begin on November 2nd in Farmington

Four Corners Air Quality Task Force

  • The Task Force will address the following problems and issues

    • Mitigation of visibility impacts to Class I areas in the region to meet future regional haze goals

    • Prevention of the degradation of air quality in Class I and Class II areas

      • Including the deposition of acids, nitrogen and mercury

    • The need to ensure that the federal and state air quality standards are and will continue to be met

  • Finalize all task force activities by the end of 2007

Information on the WEB

  • This presentation, Four Corners Air Quality Task Force information and other air quality information can be found at:

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