Air Quality in the San Juan Mountains
MSI is addressing regional air quality issues and concerns by doing research, long-term monitoring, outreach, and collaborating with regional partners.
The San Juan Mountains are perceived as having crystal clean air because of their remoteness from large cities. However, these mountains are in close proximity to an industrialized area. The Four Corners is a center for coal-fired energy and methane (natural gas) production. For example, San Juan County, in northwestern New Mexico, is one of the largest emitters of power plant mercury among all counties in the nation.
An additional coal-fired power plant and about 12,000 more natural gas wells are proposed for the Four Corners. Concerns about mercury, ground-level ozone, nitrogen and other pollutants and their effects on human health, visibility, and ecosystems are growing. Mercury concentrations in precipitation are alarmingly high and several water bodies in the region have fish consumption advisories due to mercury. Ozone levels are approaching the limit for public health considerations. Nitrogen concentrations in gaseous NOx and in precipitation are increasing.
Click on the links below to find out about different projects within MSI's Air Quality Program.
Learn about your current air quality conditions.
In 2007, MSI began studying mercury in rain and snow, lakes, and forest soils. Mercury is an emerging environmental health concern in the Four Corners.
This 2009 baseline survey looked for signs of vegetation injury due to ozone. A type of unknown injury was found in one of the study species, but it was concluded, after much literature review and expert opinion, not be be caused by ozone.
The Forum was organized to increase understanding and communication regarding regional air quality issues. The first event occurred in May 2008, the 2nd in August 2009, and the 3rd in May 2010.
How’s the Air Over Here? Outdoor Air Quality in the Eastern Four Corners Region (2.5 MB PDF booklet)
The “How’s the Air Out Here?” booklet was released in April 2009. The booklet compiles air quality information for SW Colorado and NW New Mexico and presents it in a friendly format for decision makers, managers, and the public. It is also availble in print (call MSI at 970-247-7071). The booklet has received great reviews from both government (for example, La Plata County) and community organizations (for example, League of Women Voters).
(2.5 MB PDF booklet)
El "¿Cómo está el aire por aquí?" Folleto fue publicado en abril de 2009. El folleto recoge información de calidad del aire para SW Colorado y Nuevo México NW y la presenta en un formato amigable para los tomadores de decisiones, administradores y público en general. También es availble en impresión (llame al 970-247-7071 MSI). El folleto ha recibido muy buenas críticas tanto del gobierno (por ejemplo, Condado de La Plata) y organizaciones de la comunidad (por ejemplo, la Liga de Mujeres Votantes).
Lots of contacts and websites to find out more about monitoring data, air quality education, and more...
The NM Environment Department wrote, “Mountain Studies Institute’s outreach efforts have made a valuable contribution to air quality awareness in the Four Corners…(MSI) has proven to be able to organize an effective group that can work accross federal, state, and local agencies and organizations to do public education …the 2008 Durango Air Quality Forum hosted by MSI was a success...”
La Plata County expressed, “We see considerable value in their (MSI’s) plan for outreach activities to collaboratively address ozone, mercury, and climate change environmental quality issues in the Four Corners Region. Furthermore, the Institute’s collaborative approach to include federal, state and local agencies and organizations in their efforts is laudable. “
The US Forest Service wrote, “Our effort has been enhanced through the work performed by the Mountain Studies Institute, which in our estimation has been a real leader in bringing together a diverse group of interests to focus on important climate and air quality concerns in the four corners area, including the San Juan Mountains. Over the last several years we have come to appreciate the educational services as well as inventory and monitoring programs being provided by MSI. We have worked with them recently regarding investigation on mercury deposition in the San Juan Mountains and plan to continue and to possibly expand those efforts in the near future. “
The San Juan Basin Health Departmentcommented, “MSI’s history in collaborating and originating (outreach) events is certainly commendable…without institutions like MSI the crawl of public education, awareness, and collaboration in these programs would be slower indeed.”
Thanks to MSI’s Air Quality Funders!
U.S. EPA Region 8 – Regional Geographic Priorities - Air Toxics Grant Program & Environmental Justice Small Grants Program
San Juan Public Lands Center (USFS/BLM)
Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forest
San Miguel County, Colorado