Report: Aspen air quality one of cleanest on record
“The report is for 2009 and shows that Aspen had one of the cleanest years since record keeping began in 1988,” said Lee Cassin, director of the City’s Environmental Health Department. “Levels have not changed significantly in the last few years.”
The state report compared levels in Aspen with other towns in the state. Aspen’s average levels were similar to those in Breckenridge and Mt. Crested Butte but better than those in Pagosa Springs, Crested Butte or Steamboat Springs.
Aspen’s worst day monitored by the state was cleaner than the worst day in any other mountain or Western Slope town but wasn’t as good as Colorado Springs, Canon City, Longmont or Boulder.
Aspen’s worst day had 47 millionths of a gram of PM-10 in each meter of air, compared to the federal standard of 150.
The town in the Western Counties region with the worst PM-10 level was Delta. Pagosa Springs had the highest level among the mountain counties, and Alamosa had the worst day among southern Front Range areas. All of these areas had higher readings than the worst day among the Denver/front range counties.
Denver, however, had 61 days when the visibility was either “poor” or “extremely poor.”
PM-10 is particulate air pollution, almost all from traffic that grinds up dirt on roads. “PM-10” stands for particulate matter smaller than 10 microns in size. PM-10 is associated with increased illness, hospitalization and death rates.
“These findings are consistent even at moderate PM-10 levels like those experienced in Aspen: the higher PM-10 levels are, the more risk increases. PM-10 particles are inhaled deeply into the lungs,” Cassin said. “People with asthma tend to be more sensitive to particulate air pollution than others.”
Since Aspen’s high PM-10 levels are caused almost exclusively by vehicle traffic, reducing vehicle trips necessary in order to lower PM-10 levels. Measures that have been taken by the City to lower traffic and PM-10 levels include paid parking, which partly pays for free transit service in town, expanded valley bus service, the Galena Street Shuttle and Dial-a-rides, bus lanes and free parking for carpoolers.
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