IDEQ requests to exclude ‘exceptional’ air quality data

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PINEHURST – The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ) is currently seeking public comment following a request from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to exclude air quality data recordings from “exceptional days” that are recorded at the Pinehurst monitoring system.

The specific days in question include the ones last year during wildfire season where smoky air hung throughout the Silver Valley.

With the 2017 season, much of the smoke that was present did not even originate from fires in the local area.

If these days aren’t excluded from the overall data that is collected, Shoshone County could once again fall into non-attainment status.

Historically, the west end of Shoshone County (particularly the City of Pinehurst) has existed under the stigma of being in non-attainment for its air quality rating– according to the guidelines of the Nation Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

Pinehurst and the rest of the west end did finally reach attainment in 2016.

Shoshone County has spent the last year and a half in compliance, but the data collected from last summer could once again put the county back under the national microscope.

Getting the 2017 days excluded is a big step in Shoshone County keeping their attainment status for several reasons.

“Attainment is a large step for the Silver Valley,” Shoshone County commissioner Mike Fitzgerald said. “Attainment relates directly to the overall health and quality of life for residents, alleviates the stigma and perception of poor air quality to visitors and business who want to come to the valley, and signals that our community is improving our recognition of the problem and burning in a more responsible and productive fashion.”

Exceptional days may include days where the air quality is affected by forest fires, prescribed burns, slash burns, and other events that cause the air quality numbers to be sky high that are either out of the county’s control or set days for these specific uses.

The EPA must be given a list of exceptional days and then approve them before they are excluded. IDEQ will continue to work so that the number continues to go down. By continuing programs like clean burning education and the woodstove changeout, it should ensure that the air quality stays in national compliance.

Written comments on the request will be accepted through August 6, 2018, at 5 p.m (MDT).

Submit comments electronically on DEQ’s website or by mail or email to: tanya.chin@deq.idaho.gov.

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