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Air monitoring group provides needed information, mayor says

Helmig denies he is anti-oil and gas
Oil and gas
Small oil and gas operation near the county line between Boulder and Weld Counties.

 

Detlev Helmig says he collects and compiles air quality data in the Longmont area without bias and lets others make assumptions about his findings.

“Everything we do is open to the public, everyone is welcome to see my presentations and ask questions,” said Helmig, an atmopheric chemist, said. “I am a scientist. I want to provide good objective data and to be trusted by everybody out there. If I take a side on what I present, I would not be respected by either side.”

Helmig and his company Boulder A.I.R. has been sampling, analyzing and reporting atmospheric emissions and measuring greenhouse gasses at two locations in and around Longmont since March 2019. 

 One site is near Vance Brand Municipal Airport, where Helmig began sampling in September 2019. The other site is one the east side of Union Reservoir, where he began monitoring in December 2019.

Boulder AIR, at bouldair.com/longmont.htm, posts online reports detailing levels of ozone, methane and carbon dioxide at Vance Brand Airport, and the levels of carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, nitric oxide, nitrogen oxides, ethane, propane, benzene, acetylene and toluene at the Union Reservoir station.

The data posted by Boulder A.I.R. is publicly available in near real-time. A year’s worth of quarterly data analysis reports are also available on the city of Longmont’s website at https://www.longmontcolorado.gov/departments/departments-n-z/public-information/oil-gas/monitoring-and-reports-oil-gas.

Helmig said Boulder A.I.R’s data is especially relevant for Longmont residents since it provides air quality information much sooner than what other agencies publish.

“You need an ongoing monitoring program, it can be fine tuned and then you can compare pollution events that occur, both before and after,” Helmig said. “Air pollution can change so quickly, within minutes an event takes place and then it is gone.

We’ve captured dozens of pollution conditions because we were there and we are ready,” Helmig said.

Longmont Mayor Joan Peck said as air pollution spills into the city from wildfires around the region, it is especially important for residents to take advantage of Boulder A.I.R’s capabilities. People with breathing problems can see how they can manage their exposure to the acrid, smoky air.

“This is something people can check daily to see how it affects their health,” Peck said. “He (Detlev Helmig) is performing an invaluable service for the city.”

Helmig said the Boulder A.I.R’s site has attracted the attention of residents seeking health information and scientists looking for solid data about local pollution.

“We get emails and phone calls from concerned citizens with respiratory conditions asking if they can go outside and exercise,” Helmig said. “We also get phone calls from medical professionals and athletic coaches, to see if they need to tailor their outside activities.”

“If for some reason the data is not up in a timely manner,” Helmig said, “We hear about it, almost immediately. They say: ‘What’s wrong with the data? When will you be back up?”

Critics in the oil and gas industry have claimed Helmig skews his data to unfairly portray oil and gas producers as high level polluters. 

Helmig said he is not anti-oil and gas. “I drive a car, I know fuel has to come from somewhere,” Helmig said. 

He said his data can be used to help the industry make changes to lessen its impact on the environment. “We’re just trying to help everyone,” Helmig said.