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Old 04-11-2012, 12:46 PM
Location: Colorado
5 posts, read 19,414 times
Reputation: 13


This is my first post (in case I do something wrong). My husband and I have lived in northeastern Colorado for 11 years. During that time the visibility of our front range view has become so bad it is now common to only see a smoky silhouette. Clear days are a time for celebration. For years we suspected my breathing problems are due to chemical pollutants from the proliferation of oil & gas drilling. Since pollution is a problem along most of the front range now, we are looking to move elsewhere in Colorado. Durango sounded like a perfect fit until online research indicated La Plata county also has drilling activity. We’re hoping to bypass confusing statistics and hear what the locals think. Are there air quality issues in the Durango area that might affect someone with pollution sensitivities? We will sincerely appreciate any help you can give us in finding a place where the air is clean and windows can be opened with abandon.
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Old 04-11-2012, 06:12 PM
68 posts, read 143,686 times
Reputation: 107
Default Oil and Gas activity

If escaping oil and gas is the goal, then NW NM influence on the SW corner of Colorado is not going to be a fix (Jazzlover may weigh in here). I see a regional bubble of bad air that Durango certainly cannot escape.

What can I say about Durango. HA. Almost every visit we make to see friends there it is AWESOME! My kids never want to leave. They love the San Juans and Purgatory. There is the biological diversity of having yuccas growing under ponderosa and fir trees, the downtown is kind of neat, there are hot springs, and the town has a cool feel.

Is Durango perfect? I think many of us know it isn't. I have lived in Colorado for a whopping total of 9 years and still love the place. Experienced and studied what I can. My findings are measly compared to others on here. Would I move there? Probably not in the end analysis.

If anyone on here finds the balanced formula that blends:

air quality
little traffic
clean water
alpine skiing adventures where one can launch adventures from the lifts of a low key small ski hill
knowing people and having a smaller town feel without feeling in the middle of nowhere or being too close to Denver (Jazz knows where I live, not Westcliffe, and knows I love it yet struggle)
river floating
amazing big game hunting opps
amazing flyfishing
fairly quick access to snowfree desert areas when the winter is making you nuts
being able to hit a variety of shopping in less than 90 minutes
OPPORTUNITIES FOR KIDS (balancing sciences, arts, outdoors, exposure to REAL PEOPLE that live off the land, skiing, special programs like gymnastics, martial arts, swimming)

I am sure I have left some things out. I have my list of towns that "I think" balances these, and Durango isn't really one of them as much as I wish it was.................
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Old 04-11-2012, 09:03 PM
Location: Colorado
5 posts, read 19,414 times
Reputation: 13
Default Durango air quality?

Westcliffe . . . Thanks so much for your response, although I admit hoping to hear “The air is great. Start packing.”

I have lived in Colorado for 52 years and can’t imagine leaving. At the same time my husband and I need to face facts -- our home that we love and worked so hard for just happens to be near one of the most active oil & gas areas in the nation.

We lived in Denver during the 70s smog era and remember major efforts were made to reverse the situation. This time around that’s not going to happen. The air here won’t be cleaned up in our lifetime.

So after reading your post we decided escaping oil and gas may be the goal, but improved air quality is relative and “a regional bubble of bad air” doesn’t sound awful. The real test will be my breathing. We’ll take a few trips down there to check things out and will have a good time regardless.

Thanks again for being the first response to my first post. If you have any other places you think we should consider, we’re open to any suggestions.
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Old 04-11-2012, 09:29 PM
8,317 posts, read 25,091,437 times
Reputation: 9065
While I am not a "fan" of living in Durango because of the transplant/yuppieville that it has become, generally speaking, the air quality there is pretty good. Two things, one older and one newer can affect that. The newer is the amount of gas drilling activity that is occurring there. So far, I have not personally observed much effect from that--but there is no denying that there is a LOT of drilling activity going on around Durango. The older is the proximity of Durango to the Four Corners power plants near Farmington that, for years, were some of the "dirtiest" power plants in the country. Fortunately for Durango, the air pollution from those (and the more distant very large coal-fired plants near Page, Arizona) doesn't seem to drift toward Durango too often. I have, on occasion, observed evidence of the pollution from the Four Corners plants in Durango if the wind is blowing hard from the south to southwest.

Grand Junction and the western valleys of Colorado can suffer significant and long-lasting air inversions in the winter that lead to some pretty smoggy days, so I would scratch them from your list.

I have lived and traveled all of Colorado. I, too, remember the real "foul air" days on the Front Range back in the 1970's. We're headed back to that because all of the great efforts at controlling air pollution on the Front Range are being swamped by out-of-control population growth--another thing the growth-lovers refuse to admit.

Truth is, your best bet for clean air in this region may be just a few miles north of you in southeast Wyoming. The prevailing (and hard winds) there tend to cleanse the area of any pollution. When I lived in southeast Wyoming, the smog plume from the Front Range would almost never ascend much beyond the 5,500 foot level, which essentially kept it south of the Wyoming/Colorado state line. Cheyenne, at 6,200 ft. had clean air just about all the time. It was one of the things I really liked about SE Wyoming when I lived there. That is not to say that all of Wyoming has clean air--it does not. The areas downwind of the the major power plants at Glenrock, Wheatland, and near Rock Springs have issues, as does the formerly pristine clean-air area around Pinedale. Intense gas drilling around the Pinedale area is what is giving it air pollution issues now.

I have a spreadsheet that I downloaded several years ago that ranked the Rocky Mountain States for air quality by county. Unfortunately, I don't remember the original source of the spreadsheet and the data is now well out-of-date--it was compiled before the gas drilling boom went crazy in the region. Of all the Rocky Mountain States, Idaho, Wyoming, and New Mexico had about the highest percentage of low air pollution counties in the region. Not surprisingly, the Wasatch Front counties in Utah were some of the worst, as were some Colorado Front Range counties. The best 10 counties for low air pollution were:

1. Weston, Wyoming
2. Latah, Idaho
3. Valenica, New Mexico
4. Santa Fe, New Mexico
5. Bonner, Idaho
6. Laramie, Wyoming (Cheyenne)
7. Fremont, Colorado
8. Park, Wyoming
9. Natrona, Wyoming (Casper)
10. Nez Perce, Idaho

The worst couanties for air pollution (with "1st" being the worst):

1. Salt Lake, Utah
2. Dona Ana, New Mexico (Las Cruces--mostly from dust)
3. Bernalillo, New Mexico (Albuquerque--again dust being a major pollutant)
4. San Juan, New Mexico (Farmington--Four Corners Power Plants)
5. Campbell, Wyoming (Gillette--gas drilling and coal mining)
6. Ada, Idaho (Boise)
7. Utah, Utah (Provo)
8. Larimer, Colorado (Fort Collins)
9. Ravalli, Montana
10. Jefferson, Colorado

For some reason, there were some counties omitted from the data, presumably because there was no air quality monitoring equipment in the county or records were not kept consistently to establish averages.

Last edited by jazzlover; 04-11-2012 at 10:01 PM..
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Old 04-12-2012, 02:57 AM
Location: Everywhere and Nowhere
14,131 posts, read 26,246,015 times
Reputation: 6815
All you need to do is google "la plata county air quality" and you'll find a lot of information showing air quality there is pretty good. I'm sure it's a lot better now than back in the days of smelters and wood stoves. Doesn't seem to have inversion issues like some of the other areas mentioned.
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Old 04-12-2012, 05:48 AM
68 posts, read 143,686 times
Reputation: 107
Default Air Now

google AIR NOW They have a map that seems to be more and more accurate as it expands. Jazz is right about Durango narrowly escaping. That the little yellow bubble for bad air/ozone pollution seems to stay mostly in New Mexico and runs NW into SE Utah. Sometimes that bubble (or "plume") connects in with the air from Albuquerque and runs along US 550. Farmington just seems too close though.

Were you set on Colorado? I guess it seemed in the OP you were looking for somewhere else in CO, however I could have imagined that............
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:11 AM
Location: Colorado
5 posts, read 19,414 times
Reputation: 13
Default Durango air quality?

jazzlover -- Thanks for all the great information. Your comment “there is a LOT of drilling activity going on around Durango” was most helpful to us. Since oil and gas-related emissions are what we’re trying to get away from, you saved us some wishful thinking.

I found your spreadsheet from several years ago to be very interesting. Even today Larimer and Jefferson counties have the worst ozone record in Colorado according to the American Lung Association’s State of the Air report.

Since you remember the “foul air” days on the Front Range back in the 70s, I thought you might be interested in northern Front Range air quality issues we’re facing today. With this being a Durango thread, I will send a DM.
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Old 04-12-2012, 12:08 PM
Location: Colorado
5 posts, read 19,414 times
Reputation: 13
Default Durango air quality?

CAVA1990 -- Thanks for responding. I had googled air quality in La Plata county but have learned this kind of data can be deceiving. Many days when our visibility has been the worst, AirNow says the AQI was Good/green. If ozone and 2.5 particulates were low according to them, what was in the air?? Since City-Data is a valuable source of information from locals, I decided to try that route also.

Good news about no inversion issues in Durango. We used to think that was the problem here but air pollution has gotten progressively worse, and dramatically so in the last few years.
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Old 04-12-2012, 12:59 PM
Location: Colorado
5 posts, read 19,414 times
Reputation: 13
Default Durango air quality?

Westcliffe -- AirNow is the first thing I look at every morning and many times throughout the day! I recently started using their archives to create a history and compare the AQI peak in various cities. I wish the EPA would have something similar showing oil & gas-related emissions.

EPA side note . . . A recent article (from or about NOAA) stated “According to the EPA, the northern Front Range has been out of compliance with federal health-based standards in the summer since 2007.” I have a newspaper article from April of 2009 that states “In 2004, some areas of the Front Range violated the .080 limit, but the EPA agreed to defer designating the area as non-compliant until the end of 2007.” So it seems we’ve been out of attainment as far back as 2004, and there’s no end in sight.

You are right, we're set on Colorado. Since air quality is a issue in the areas that interest us, we've decided to go for "better air quality".
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Old 04-14-2012, 07:04 AM
Location: Betwixt and Between
463 posts, read 942,431 times
Reputation: 420
Don't forget about the train. If you have allergy/breathing issues you don't want to live downwind of it. Actually, coal plant emissions are some of the most toxic pollutants out there so getting away from the tracks would be a good idea regardless of allergies. When I was living on 4th ave (4 blocks east of the train terminal), you could always smell the coal and the dust seemed to cover everything. I think that neighborhood (south 4th ave) was especially bad since when the trains were idled in the yard they left the boilers fired day and night. That creates a constant source of coal emissions and it's hard to get away from-especially in that part of town.
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