By Caroline Jenkins
for the Pathfinder
Its winter in the valley. Mornings are crisp, and the familiar scent of wood-burning stoves hangs in the air. While this conjures up memories of holidays past, it can also be extremely detrimental to certain populations.
In November the Missoula City County Health Departments (MCCHD) real-time air monitoring station in Seeley Lake went live, relaying readings of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5).
For the last seven weeks hourly readings have been captured, and its not always a pretty picture. Monitoring shows there is a definite issue with particulate matter, according to Mamie Colburn, Air Quality Specialist with MCCHD. Hourly readings have been over the federal EPA Health-Based standard for PM2.5 on a regular basis, especially at night according to Colburn.
For example, the unofficial 24-hour PM2.5 average for Seeley Lake for Monday, December 28, 2009 was 50ug/m3. This was the highest 24-hour average of the 13 Montana monitoring sites for Monday, and it exceeds the federal health-based standard of 35ug/m3.
The levels [that have been recorded] are high enough to warrant immediate attention, according to Colburn. To address this issue, MCCHD is interested in educating the community about the data and their implications and looking at sourcesprimarily wood-burning stoves. MCCHD would then like to work with the community to look at possible solutions for improving air quality.
A representative from MCCHD will be at the January 4 Seeley Lake Community Council meeting to discuss the real-time air monitoring data and discuss how to moved forward.
The Community Council is interested in more thoroughly understanding these data and the implications and pursuing what may be possible voluntary solutions with the community, noted Jon Haufler, Seeley Lake Community Council.
All residents are encouraged to attend the meeting at 6pm at the Barn. If you are unable to attend, you may call MCCHD at 258-4755 and speak with Mamie Colburn or Ben Schmidt for more information.
The real-time air monitoring data are available at http://todaysair.mt.gov/AirMonitoring/AirDataMap.aspx; just click on Seeley Lake for the current readings. Please take some time to visit this site to see the readings.