Outdoor Air Quality
Air pollution from natural and human impacts causes disease, reduces lifespan and causes emotional stress. San Miguel County residents and visitors' lives are enriched by clean air and clear alpine vistas. The environmental health department collaborates with Environmental Protection Agency, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, US Forest Service and other public health agencies to protect and improve air quality.
History of Air Quality in San Miguel County
The EPA began setting national ambient air quality standards for health in 1971. In 1986, air quality monitoring for PM10 (airborne particulate 10 microns and smaller) in Telluride exceeded the national air standard 17 times. Continued air sampling showed continuing exceedances in Telluride, and CDPHE designated Telluride a “non-attainment” area in 1990.
Wildfires, high winds, oil & gas extraction, combustion engines, regional power plants, construction, and solid fuel heaters are just some of the sources of air pollution in San Miguel County. The population in the Town of Telluride is subjected to higher concentrations of pollutants due to natural ventilation inversions.
San Miguel County is currently in compliance with all State and Federal standards for air quality. The county reached attainment due to several efforts to minimize air pollutants. Additionally, several measures were made regionally (PDF) to limit the amount of air pollution and maintain healthy air quality.
San Miguel County Environmental Health Department operates two types of air pollution sampling devices, PM 2.5 and PM-10. Particulate matter (PM) is the term used for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. The county’s PM monitoring tracks particulate matter that occurs outdoors primarily from vehicles or burning of fuels such as wood, heating oil, coal, and natural sources such as wildfires. Exposure to fine particles can cause short and long-term health effects, dependent on the duration and severity.
Click the links below for more information on outdoor air quality:
- Air Quality Index (PDF)
- Air Quality Records Interactive Map - CDPHE's Air Pollution Control Division
- Air Now Website
Click the links below for various smoke and wildfire resources:
Open burn is the burning of any material or substance in the ambient air on any open premises, or on any public street, alley, or other land adjacent to such premises, or in a receptacle where emissions are released directly into the air without passing through a chimney or stack. Generally, anytime you light a fire outdoors, you are open burning.
Anyone performing a non-exempted open burn is required to obtain an open burn permit. Campfires, non-commercial cooking fires, and agricultural burns are exempted from an open burn permit. These burns, however, are still subject to fire district and municipal fire rules.
Open Burn Permits
Please alert the San Miguel County Sheriff's Office of any open burns - (970) 728-1911. Open Burn Permits are processed through CDPHE for any area in San Miguel County. You can click here to apply for a burn permit through the CDPHE.
For areas within the Telluride Air Quality Region (TAQR), a local permit is also required. Burn permits are issued October 1 through May 30. The TAQR includes: Telluride, Idarado Legacy, Pandora, Liberty Bell, Camels Garden, Mountain Village, Eider Creek, Hillside, Lawson Hill, Keystone Hill, West Meadows, and Last Dollar -- see image below.
Apply for a burn permit in the Telluride Air Quality Region by emailing Chris Smith at email@example.com. The fee is $100 for one burn day and $50 per subsequent day. Applicants may pay by check or credit card (by phone).