Cities across Idaho are experiencing significant growth, which is often accompanied by some inevitable growing pains. While some signs of growth are clearly visible – such as more people recreating in our favorite spots, rising home prices or increased traffic – others aren’t as easy to see and don’t often get discussion they deserve. One of those less-visible impacts of growth we should be talking about is air pollution.

Why Are Monitors Needed Now?

One side effect of an increasing population is more people driving around, which in turn creates more air pollution from vehicle exhaust. Because of this, there are national requirements that cities of a certain size install monitors for pollutants like ozone and fine particulates (think very small particles floating in the air) in their region. Treasure Valley cities exceeded this population threshold long ago; however, cities in other areas of the state – particularly Eastern Idaho cities such as Idaho Falls – are beginning to exceed the population threshold. This means if they lack the appropriate air monitors then they’ll need to install them.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (IDEQ) manages the air monitors located throughout Idaho. Idaho Falls already has a monitor for fine particulates, but due to recent growth an additional air monitor for ozone is needed. Having an air monitor for ozone doesn’t mean that the air is currently polluted with ozone, but it does provide access to local data ensuring residents that their health is being protected. Should ozone pollution reach a hazardous level, the monitor will immediately detect this and steps can be taken to protect everyone’s health.

Now, when I say ozone, you might be scratching your head and wondering, “isn’t that what we’ve been trying to keep in the atmosphere for the past few decades?” Ozone is tricky because it can be good and bad for us. Ozone high in our atmosphere helps to protect us from the sun’s radiation. But I’m referring here to "low-level" ozone that stays close to the Earth’s surface and pollutes the air we breathe. If it seems confusing, just remember "good up high, bad nearby."

When Will Idaho Falls Get An Ozone Monitor?

We expect IDEQ to install a monitor in Idaho Falls sometime in 2019.   In the meantime, you can learn about more IDEQ’s statewide air monitoring program, and see where air monitors are located throughout the state and what specific pollutants they monitor for.   After doing a bit of research, don’t hesitate to contact IDEQ if you have any questions, or if you just want to stress how much you value Idaho’s clean air. It’s important that they hear these things from the Idahoans they’re in charge of protecting.