November 1st marks the start of Lewis and Clark air quality requirements

Posted at 8:57 AM, Nov 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-02 10:57:08-04

HELENA- Lewis and Clark County would like to remind people that November 1 marks the beginning of outdoor air-quality requirements.

In an effort to protect the health of area residents, Lewis and Clark Public Health will begin daily reporting of outdoor air quality.

The health department issues the reports each year from November through February due to temperature inversion being more common during winter months.

Temperature inversions will trap chimney smoke and engine exhaust, significantly adding to air pollution.

Residents are asked to check air quality before using a fireplace or woodstove.

According to county environmental health specialist Jay Plant, smoke from woodstoves is the main source of winter air pollution for the surrounding area.

Breathing the wood smoke during poor air quality can cause headaches, bronchitis and aggravate existing lung diseases like asthma.

“For the public health standards it’s good to be a good neighbor,” said Plant, “Everybody has to breathe the same air and unfortunately around Helena, we live in a valley and all that air tends to get trapped in this valley.”

Residents are asked to check air quality before using a fireplace or woodstove.

Plant also asks people who are burning to make sure the fire is hot and the timber is dry to reduce smoke output.

The department designates air-quality status each day using these terms:

  • GOOD – Particulate pollution levels are low, and there are no restrictions on the proper use of woodstoves and fireplaces.
  • WATCH – Air quality is moderate, and weather conditions are not expected to improve. The health department will ask you to voluntarily avoid or reduce the use of fireplaces and stoves, especially those not certified by the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • POOR – Particulate pollution levels are high, and the National Weather Service predicts little change. You can use only pellet stoves and EPA-certified burning devices. You must reduce smoke from these devices by following proper burning practices.

Once air quality reaches a poor designation, the health department will issue temporary restrictions on indoor and outdoor burning to help reduce additional pollution.

The county may also issue violation notices during that period.

People enrolled in the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP) or the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF), can apply for an exemption that allows them to burn when air quality is “poor.”

residents may also be eligible for an exemption if their gas or electric heating system temporarily stops working.
People can check the current air quality on the Lewis and Clark County’s website.