La Plata County officials, concerned about the growing pollution risk in the area, this week took steps to assume air-quality monitoring duties currently handled by the San Juan Basin Health Department.
The duties would include collecting samples from two monitors located at River City Hall and investigating air-quality complaints in the county. This excludes areas where either the Southern Ute Indian Tribe or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have jurisdiction.
County commissioners at their meeting Tuesday approved a letter to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment proposing to complete the duties for $9,460 a year. This would include recording information from the monitors and replacing filters every six days as well as collecting documentation on complaints and forwarding the information to the state health department for follow-up.
Complaints would be handled by the county's building department, and monitoring would be completed by public works. The county would not be responsible for enforcement.
Commissioner Kellie Hotter said, "I think it's good to have it internal so that we can keep an eye on this and know where we are at, and I know we have a great team in place to do that."
County Manager Shawn Nau, in a phone interview after the meeting, said that assuming responsibility for the tasks would take the middleman out of the process.
"The think the main thing was this gives a much more direct line in working with (the state health department) on all the issues related to air quality," he said.
Commissioners have expressed increased concern about air quality as San Juan County, N.M., just across the state line, appears poised to be labeled a non-attainment area for exceeding federal ozone standards.
Lynn Westberg, executive director of San Juan Basin Health, said she understands the county's desire to take a more active role in air-quality issues but said sorting out the jurisdictional issues could be complicated.
"There are things that are just going to have to be thought through," she said.
Gordon Pierce, technical services program manager for the state health department, said the state trains all its contract monitors and analyzes their samples once they come in. If La Plata County is awarded the contract, it will begin in July.