Truckee’s air quality continues to improve, but new pollution from road dust, wood fires and construction may soon overtake current emission reductions.
Presented to town council Thursday, Truckee’s seventh annual Particulate Matter Air Quality Report showed decreasing trends in particulate (solid) pollution. The report is part of the Truckee Particulate Matter Air Quality Management Plan, which came about in the early ’90s when emission levels were pushing perilously close to national standards.
“If you take the long view compared to year-by-year ” where you can see we are making improvements ” but looking at the last 13 to 14 years, the change has been really dramatic,” said Town Planner Duane Hall.
According to the report, over the last 15 years fine particulate matter (under 2.5 microns) has fallen by over 50 percent, and coarse inhalable particulate matter (under 10 microns) has dropped by about 18 percent.
However, Hall said when subtracting the fine matter from the course (leaving between 2.5 and 10 microns), coarse matter has actually increased.
He said the primary source of fine particulate matter in Truckee comes from wood stoves and fireplaces, and coarse particulates primarily come from road dust in the area.
Currently the town’s strategy to reduce air-borne particulate matter is to replace older polluting wood stoves and fireplaces, with the town offering rebates to offset the cost of a new stove as an incentive.
The deadline to replace older stoves not certified as clean by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been extended to May 31, 2008.
Hall said the program has had the largest effect on reducing pollution over the last few years. Once the goal has been reached, however, new emissions from continuing growth in construction and road work will catch up with the reductions achieved by the replacement program.
The town would then refocus on reducing road dust, he said.
“We need to implement street sanding guidelines to both maintain safety for vehicles and to reduce road dust,” Hall said. “Then we can have a conversation with Caltrans on how they do their business to reduce dust.”
Caltrans spokesperson Cassandra Pitts said Caltrans uses a combination of sweepers and water trucks to dispose of excess sand. Both apply water to the roadway before sweeping up sand and salt to limit how much dust escapes into the atmosphere.
Hall said both fine emissions from wood stoves and coarse particulates from road dust have similar effects on health, but fine particles can pose a greater hazard.
“The fine particles are inhaled deeper into the lungs and have a greater effect on children, senior citizens, and people with asthma,” Hall said.
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