For centuries, humans used mercury to extract gold or silver. Incredibly dangerous if inhaled directly, mercury also poses an environmental burden when it is released into the atmosphere or ends up in water. Mercury release can have natural (from volcanoes and forest fires) or man-made (anthropogenic) origins (power plants and manufacturing). One anthropogenic source linked to Air Sciences’ work is gold mining in Nevada.
In our previous post on the Regional Haze Rule (RHR), we briefly explored the history of the rule and how recent changes in the rules and accompanying guidance have implications for how wildland fires are handled during the planning process. Here, we will look more closely at the implications of wildland fire on regional haze planning, and how Air Sciences is assisting the Western Regional Air Partnership (WRAP). WRAP is a voluntary partnership of states, tribes, federal land managers, local air agencies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) whose purpose is to understand current and evolving regional air quality issues in the Western United States.
Then and Now
Promulgated in 1999 in the wake of the bipartisan Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission’s recommendations, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Haze Rule established visual (instead of health-based) criteria for air quality to address declining visibility. The areas subject to this rule span the larger Class I national parks and wilderness areas (156 in total) overseen by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and several Native American Tribes.
In 2015 the United States (US) Department of State launched an Air Quality Monitoring Program with the primary goals of protecting US personnel and their families, obtaining sound data to reduce exposure, evaluating the Department’s enterprise risk, advancing scientific understanding, and highlighting US technology and leadership. This effort has contributed air quality reporting at many embassies and consulates around the world. Volunteer on-site Air Quality Fellows provide the scientific expertise behind this program. Air Sciences’ Dr. Katheryn Kolesar recently returned from such a trip to Cairo, Egypt.