Harmful Air Quality in the Rocky Mountains

Last Wednesday August 6, environmental disaster at Animas River raised everyone’s alarms on how bad are we taking care of our natural resources?

Even though, toxic spills and environmental disaster of such proportions thankfully don’t occur often, our planet is sicker than we imagine.

It’s no secret for anyone that pollution in big cities such as Denver is high. In fact, The Denver metro area hit number 13th, between worst ozone polluted cities in the country. According to the American Lung Association.

However, pollution is expanding fast and it is reaching far country and mountain regions, including National Parks, such as the Rocky Mountains.

Every time we escape to a National Park we expect as any other visitor clean air and good visibility, but according to The National Park Service, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, is downwind of many sources of air pollution, including vehicles, power plants, industry, and agriculture.

Air pollutants carried into the park can harm natural and scenic resources such as lakes and streams, plants, soils, and visibility. Some of these sources are nearby, while others are regional or even global.

Earth and climate change, parts of this image furnished by NASAKeeping it Healthy

The National Park Service has been working with the State of Colorado, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and interested stakeholders to find ways of reducing air pollution to help protect and restore park resources.

Both agencies are monitoring nitrogen, ozone, haze, and other pollutants to assess status and trends. These pollutants have serious consequences in the air quality. For example:

  • Excess nitrogen from air pollution impacts high elevation lakes, forests, and alpine plant communities in the park, ultimately leading to a loss in biodiversity.
  • Toxic airborne contaminants including mercury and pesticides deposit onto park waters and lands, accumulating in fish and possibly presenting a wildlife and human health concern.
  • Ground-level ozone often reaches harmful levels in the park; exposures injure ozone sensitive plants and may also impact the respiratory health of park visitors and employees.
  • Fine particles of air pollution create haze in the park, affecting how well and how far visitors can see by dimming the colors and textures of scenic vistas and obscuring distant landmarks.

Working Together

NPS Photo

Photo Credit: National Parks Service

The State of Colorado is working to reduce air pollution through strategies including engine regulations, vehicle standards and power plant controls which should improve visibility conditions in the park.

We can also, help in reducing human print in the environment. Mile Hi Rafting encourages everyone to join us in simple actions, like recycling, walking more or riding your bike instead of driving everywhere. If you can’t avoid driving your car, try to keep it in great shape and apply carpools that way it will pollute less.

Replace regular incandescent light bulb with compact fluorescent light bulbs. Avoid taking frequent showers and use less hot water, specially when washing clothes.

Turn off electronic devices and lights that you are not using. Try using kitchen cloth instead of paper towels. It is just a matter of will and determination. Come and visit us at Mile Hi Rafting and help us protect and preserve the planet while enjoying inside a whitewater raft or hiking through the trails of Colorado’s astonishing wilderness. Breath deep, plant a tree and spread the word.

There is much more we can do in order to protect our planet, but it is in our hands to make the difference or just stand by and watch it die.