Truckee air quality is improving

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

TRUCKEE ” Truckee’s air quality has decreased in the last few years, but is still significantly better than the early 90s, according to an annual report.

The 2009 Annual Particulate Matter Air Quality Report shows Truckee holding within national Environmental Protection Agency standards, despite the significant smoke created by last summer’s fires. But particulate matter levels have crept up in 2007 and 2008, compared to past years.

“The summer wildfires contributed, but we are even seeing an increase in the winter,” said Town Planner Duane Hall. “We changed to a new monitor, so it may just be because it’s more accurate, or it could be an increase in stoves offset by our removal program. We definitely want to keep our eye on it.”

At the town’s incorporation in 1993, the town had its poorest air quality, exceeding some 24-hour national standards, Hall said.

But an aggressive stance from the town council and a woodstove program that removed or replaced, old, non-compliant stoves saw pollution dip significantly in the late 90s and early 2000s, Hall said.

“Truckee has actually done a really good job to try and minimize and mitigate the problem,” said Joe Fish, deputy air pollution control officer for the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District.

Particulate matter air quality measurements deal in particle size; coarse, called PM10, and fine, called PM2.5.

Fish said PM2.5 is worse for health because it can work its way further down into the lungs, and is what current federal standards regulate.

Truckee stayed comfortably under national standards at 10.03 micrograms per cubic meter, according to the annual report, but did see a spike during last summer’s fires to 150 micrograms per cubic meter ” the worst measured.

“We’ve never seen air quality like that in Truckee,” Hall said. “But because it’s a fire it is an exceptional event ” the EPA does not consider those.”

Hall said the next step for the town will be deciding what new ways particulate pollution can be reduced ” further cracking down on woodstoves and fireplaces, tackling road sand and dust being kicked up, or some combination of both.

“We are sort of at a pause. Staff will look at the issue and probably in early 2010 return to town council with a recommendation,” Hall said.

Fish said he thinks the town’s woodstove program is pretty good as is, and road dust is an important issue.

“It affects visibility, it’s a nuisance, and it potentially creates PM2.5 too,” Fish said.

To see the annual report, as well as past reports, go to

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