Wyoming officials forecast elevated ozone

   — Editor’s note: This story was updated on Monday, March 5.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality recently warned Wyoming residents in the upper Green River Basin that conditions were favorable for elevated ground-level ozone concentrations — a threat to human health. The warnings were in place for Sunday March 4 and Monday March 5.

Separation facilities in the Pinedale Anticline have been consolidated to reduce emissions, but occasional ozone spikes remain a threat to human health in the region. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile – click to enlarge)

DEQ spokesman Keith Guille said that monitoring readings indicate the 8-hour federal standard for ozone was not exceeded on Sunday. The agency was still monitoring conditions on Monday.

Ozone is a pollutant that, in high concentrations, poses serious health risks to children, the elderly and those with respiratory conditions. During high ozone events, health officials advise staying indoors. For more information, go to Wyoming DEQ’s web site.

When there’s a wintertime temperature inversion, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from natural gas facilities and nitrogen oxides (NOx) from tailpipe emissions are suspended low in the Upper Green River Basin valley — along with smoke from wood-burning stoves and other background pollution. When the valley is blanketed in snow, the VOCs and NOx are exposed to direct sunlight and light reflected from snow, causing a photochemical reaction that creates ground-level ozone — a serious human health threat.

For more background on Wyoming’s ozone problem, read this WyoFile feature from 2011; “Pristine to Polluted,” and this update; “Ozone Dilemma” from September 2011.

— Contact Dustin Bleizeffer at 307-577-6069 or dustin@wyofile.com.

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Dustin Bleizeffer is a Report for America Corps member covering energy and climate at WyoFile. He has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 25 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily...

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