A breath of fresh air: A look at air quality in KELOLAND

KELOLAND.com Original
Smoke from Schroeder fire over Black Hills

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — As you step outside your door on any given evening in KELOLAND, you can most likely take a deep breath, drawing in clean fresh air. The state consistently attains air quality ratings of good to moderate, with good being the more common state.

The South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR) Air Quality Index tracks air quality on a numeric scale of 0 – 500, ranging through six categories (good, moderate, unhealthy for sensitive groups, unhealthy, very unhealthy, hazardous).

“The lower the number assigned that day, the better the quality of the air and the less health risk, while the higher the number assigned, the worse the quality of the air and the greater the health risk.  Each color corresponds to a different level of health concern. The AQI provides information on five major air pollutants: Ground-level Ozone, Particulate Matter, Sulfur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxide and Carbon Monoxide.”

South Dakota Dept. of Agriculture and Natural Resources website

The DANR also has a real-time map, although data for all areas is not always available.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also tracks air quality, and also provides an interactive map.

While this map does not provide much in the way of detailed information in South Dakota, the EPA also keeps an archive of air quality results in Aberdeen, Brookings, Pierre and Rapid City.

More detailed findings can be found by leaving behind governmental sources. Two popular resources, IQAir and BreezoMeter both provide interactive maps.

IQAir allows users to view air quality reports for numerous sites around the world, as well as information on heat levels and wind direction as well as the locations of wildfires which can provide some context for air conditions in certain areas.

BreezoMeter’s map meanwhile allows users to assess air quality at specific points along roadways, and also provides an air quality forecast for the forthcoming hours. The site also provides health tips based on the air quality in the region you’ve selected.

Screenshot of BreezoMeter.com showing Sioux Falls area

Both IQAir and BreezoMeter use the same scale as the EPA and DANR.

By cross referencing all of these sources, one thing of note that stands out is that air quality in Sioux Falls, while still generally within the range of good to moderate, is noticeably lower than other locations throughout the state, with many locations across the city falling within the low moderate range at the time of writing.

In comparison, Sioux Falls also appears to have a worse air quality rating that other larger cities in the region, such as Minneapolis-St. Paul and Omaha.

Screenshot of IQAir.com map showing Sioux Falls and Minneapolis

KELOLAND News reached out to the City of Sioux Falls Public Works Department to ask about the city’s air quality.

City of Sioux Falls Environmental Analyst Collin Chatterton provided written answers in response to our emailed questions, both of which are shown below in full.

Question: As seen on air quality tracking sites such as BreezoMeter.com and IQAir.com, Sioux Falls appears to have a lower level of air quality than some other cities in the region such as Omaha and Minneapolis-St. Paul, as well as other South Dakota cities like Rapid City and Aberdeen. Why are Sioux Falls’ levels so much higher?

Answer: “We can’t speak to the air quality in other cities, but what we can tell you is the air quality (AQI level) in Sioux Falls is consistently rated Good. This is the highest air quality rating from the EPA and means air quality poses little or no risk.”

Question: What are some of the major contributors to air pollution in Sioux Falls?

Answer: “As with any municipality, there are a number of sources of air pollution. These can include dust-promoting weather conditions, wildfires, temperature, and industrial sources.”

Question: What is the air pollution in the area made up of?

Answer: “See response above. The Air Quality Index consists of five major air pollutants: Ground-level Ozone, Particulate Matter, Sulfur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxide and Carbon Monoxide.”

Question: Does the city independently monitor and track air pollution within the city limits? Why or why not?

Answer: “The City does not monitor air pollution citywide but does monitor and ensure compliance on specific air quality permits for City facilities.”

Question: Have there been any major issues with air quality in Sioux Falls throughout the history of the city?

Answer: “No.”

Question: What are some ways the city can counteract air pollution?

Answer: “The City works to ensure that the health of residents is a priority. This includes air quality. The City is in the process of updating its Sustainability Master Plan, which will explore initiatives that can help air quality, such as mitigating air pollution via planting trees, utilizing cleaner energy sources, and expanding green spaces.”

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