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ARCHIVED  October 1, 1996

Air-quality study enters critical phase

A comprehensive study of the northern Front Range’s air quality enters its third phase this fall, headed by a Colorado State University team.Even though this final phase of the Northern Front Range Air Quality Study is the most in-depth of the entire project, its scope still is dependent on some additional funding.
Doug Lawson, technical project manager for the study, said he would like to have air test sites as far south as Highlands Ranch and east almost to Fort Morgan. Other cities where Lawson hopes for satellite test sites include Golden, Aurora and Boulder, as well as Fort Collins.
“The goal is to raise $2.5 million from private industry and the state to fund the study,” Lawson said.
Lawson said that approximately three-fourths of the study’s funding is coming from private industry, trade associations and environmental groups from across the country. The comprehensive scope of the project makes it important to other areas with similar pollution issues, he said.
This particular study will focus on air-pollution particles that measure just 2.5 micrometers – a fraction the size of a human hair. It will gauge the amount of particles while attempting to pinpoint their sources. Past studies have not looked as far north as this one, and they have focused on larger pollution particles.
Lawson explained that these small particles are significant not only because they are known to cause health problems but also because they are approximately the same size as a wavelength of light and therefore contribute to visibility problems by scattering and absorbing light.
They may come from many sources, including vehicle emissions, residential wood burning, charbroiling, and industrial and commercial processes. They’re primarily made up of carbon, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and ammonia.
The study began last winter with an initial round of testing.
A second $150,000 phase ran from mid-July to the end of August. Monitors were placed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, at Laurel and Mason streets in Fort Collins and near Interstate 25 and Colorado Highway 119.
“There have been no tests this extensive done during the summer,” Lawson said.
Results from the first phase have not yet been interpreted, and the second-phase readings won’t be available for another five months or so.
“The draft report is due (to the state Legislature) in December 1997, and the final is due in June 1998,” Lawson said.
This winter’s comprehensive study begins Nov. 25 and goes through mid-February.
State Sen. Tom Norton, R-Greeley, legislative sponsor of the study and a professional engineer, said, “By bringing together industry, state government and environmentalists, we’re working together to gather the data with an eye toward developing solutions.”
Rep. Shirleen Tucker, R-Lakewood, sponsored the original legislation.
“To make informed choices, we need the right data,” she said. “This study will give us the information we must have to make the decisions our state will face in the coming years.”
Desert Research Institute, a research arm of the University of Nevada system, and Air Resource Specialist Inc., a Fort Collins firm, will collect and analyze the data under CSU supervision. Once completed, the study will be submitted for peer review and publication in a scientific journal.
“That’s an important component of this study,” Lawson said. “We will seek out scientific peer review and publication.”
Ralph Smith, associate vice president for research at CSU and study director, said this project is a top priority for the university.
“This is an important study designed to give state lawmakers a scientific basis for the future decisions they will have to make concerning air quality,” Smith said. “Our job is to make sure we obtain and analyze the data with acute attention to scientific detail.”
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A comprehensive study of the northern Front Range’s air quality enters its third phase this fall, headed by a Colorado State University team.Even though this final phase of the Northern Front Range Air Quality Study is the most in-depth of the entire project, its scope still is dependent on some additional funding.
Doug Lawson, technical project manager for the study, said he would like to have air test sites as far south as Highlands Ranch and east almost to Fort Morgan. Other cities where Lawson hopes for satellite test sites include Golden, Aurora and Boulder, as well as Fort Collins.

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