Truckee beating back particulate pollution

Truckee beating back particulate pollution

30 January 2009

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USA — Like Tahoe, Truckee sits in a basin and under frequent inversion layers, trapping air pollution.

The 800-pound gorilla of Truckee air pollution is particulate matter, coming from wood stoves and fireplaces, wind-blown dust and road sanding, and open fires like prescribed burns, said Joe Fish, deputy air pollution control officer for the Sierra Air Quality Management District.

But the good news is it seems to be going down.

“Truckee air is getting cleaner — that’s in the short-term. Let’s hope it’s part of a long-term trend and not just favorable weather conditions,” Fish said.

Town Planner Duane Hall said air quality is better in Truckee now than in 1993, thanks in part to the town’s woodstove removal and replacement program, which helped homeowners get rid of or replace old, non-compliant woodstoves and fireplace inserts.

And while the town’s air pollution exceeded national standards as recently as February 2006, Hall said the town has been meeting all the air quality standards over the last couple years.

“We haven’t had too many poor air quality days in the winter, and they’ve only been from road sweeping,” Hall said. “Other than that, in the summer we only have poor air quality when there have been forest fires.”

And indeed the entire state last summer saw it’s worst air quality as part of the many fires across California, Fish said, but those are considered exceptional events.

“Truckee hits its highest numbers in January,” Fish said. “But we’ve definitely seen improvement.”

With particulate air pollution decreasing from wood stoves, Hall said it will be up to the town council where to turn their focus next — whether it’s continuing to reduce home woodburning or tamping down dust from road sanding.

However, also like the Tahoe Basin, Fish said Truckee is experiencing a slight increase in ozone.

“It has a lot to do with weather conditions, but also can be linked to growth in Truckee,” Fish said.

Taking a snapshot view of ozone levels, Fish said in July 2004, ozone levels averaged 37.9 parts per billion, rising to 40.9 parts per billion in July 2006.

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