Populated basins and valleys around the Rocky Mountains struggle with polluted air that sometimes won’t disperse, but Jackson Hole is not one of those places.
Making such a statement historically would be a stretch, simply because the infrastructure monitoring particulates and pollutants flowing through the valley has been lacking. Now, armed with a year of data, there’s more justification to make the case.
“Generally, I think we don’t know much about this area,” said Robb Sgroi, land resource specialist for the Teton Conservation District. “Air quality in the town of Jackson, we just did not know.”
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, which has a responsibility to uphold the Equality State’s air quality and comply with federal Clear Air Act standards, was aware that Jackson was among the state’s micropolitan areas where there was a hole in the data. Five years ago, while updating a statewide plan, state regulators made a goal to measure ambient air quality in those places. Working with the Fort Collins, Colorado, contractor, Air Resource Specialists, the state deployed three mobile air quality monitors around the state.
Over the last year, thanks to a station erected in the southern National Elk Refuge, Jackson was checked off the list. The results have been underwhelming, but in a good way. Even during wintertime inversions — a trigger for smog and settled particulate matter elsewhere — Jackson’s air quality held up.
“If this whole valley was one giant city, maybe it would be a problem,” said Jonathan Furst, a field specialist with Air Resource Specialists.
There were basically no violations of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s limits for air pollutants, said Sgroi, who functioned as a “site operator” who kept the local station calibrated and in order. Besides windspeed and rain gauges and a webcam, the station has instruments that measure two sizes of particulate matter, methane, hydrocarbons, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, ground-level ozone and sulphur dioxide.
“This is as high-tech as we’re going to get,” Sgroi said.
Teton Conservation District’s assistance with managing the station, which was volunteered, falls in line with its mission and complements past efforts. The district, Sgroi said, has committed to collecting and archiving air quality data from the disparate sources that have amassed it. They’ve worked with the U.S. Geological Survey to measure the effects of atmospheric deposition in high-elevation areas, and they’ve even underwritten efforts to measure “brake emissions” from cars and trucks that slowing themselves on the long descent down Teton Pass.
“It’s still a bit of a nascent topic for us, but it’s one that we support,” Sgroi said.
Jackson’s resident mobile air quality station is slated to stay in Jackson through mid-October. Its real-time findings are posted up at WyVisNet.com.