Winter air containing about twice the safe level of "fine particulate" matter from wood smoke has convinced the Idaho Air Quality Bureau to take a closer look at pollution in the Silver Valley.
The bureau began operating an air quality hotline last week, and in about a month plans to launch an extensive air monitoring project.It will place 24 monitoring devices in the Panhandle Valley to determine the extent of the problem residents of the town of Pinehurst have complained leaves the air smelling like burning garbage.
"We're at the very beginning of researching this problem," said John Ledger, chief of the Air Quality Bureau. "We'd like to see how far up and down the Silver Valley that condition exists."
The high particulate levels in Pine-hurst were discovered last winter during routine monitoring the bureau conducts throughout the state. Monitors in nearby Kellogg and outside the Silver Valley in Coeur d'Alene showed levels considered safe.
At least one Pinehurst official believes it will take additional state testing just to convince some residents that the air they breath can sometimes be unhealthy.
"There are people who believe there is no problem," said Bob Launhardt, chairman of the Pinehurst Planning and Zoning Commission.
Some of those skeptics are in city hall. City Clerk Sharon Hewitt said there are only a half-dozen days a year when the air smells smoky.