Pine Bluffs Post - Serving all of Eastern Laramie County since 1908

By Charlene Smith
Pine Bluffs Post staff 

Smoke from a distant fire or poor air quality


A few months ago I heard someone talking about the Environmental Protection Agency or the Department of Environmental Quality checking Wyoming's air quality.

The test was very scientific. These scientists stood in one location, Location A, and focused on another point, Location B. And they did this random times over a few months span this summer. Or so I heard.

The report from this very resourceful and intelligent study was that Wyoming's air quality was "poor to very poor." They could barely see Location B

Yup. The state you live in. The sky you can see the Rockies from. The same sky and air quality that burns guests' lungs with freshness was rated poor to very poor.

Now, some concerned citizens and business owners said this must be wrong. I have to disclose at this point those concerned business owners had a wee bit at stake. They were drilling companies that would be limited if not kicked out of the state if the air quality remained at a poor rating. Just so "the air is clear."

These citizens researched the work of these federal agencies and guess what they found? On those random days that they did their very scientific and very conclusive tests, there were forest fires going on. And not just somewhere in Wyoming. In the location that these agency scientists were trying to see Location B from Location A.

I relayed this story to my son who is taking a meteorology class at UW this semester. First he was very upset that someone would come in and call his freshest-air-I-know state poor let alone very poor. Then he proceeded to tell me with the confidence only a college student has to their parents that it was "hogwash."

He went on to explain how particles in the air determine the jet stream and how said particles are in the air whether the quality is poor or perfect. It is a necessary and constant thing. But not always seen. He added maybe the people testing our air had "another agenda."

A politician in the making.

I am not sure what agenda the group had or didn't have. I wasn't there. And the story I heard was second hand so maybe it isn't even true. Just hot air.

But that is beside the point for now.

The reason I wanted to tell you this story I heard is to provide a fable of sorts to serve as a soothing ointment to start the healing process of recent events.

I like our air quality. I like things open and fresh. That doesn't mean that an occasional spill of "money" from the local cattle or hog farm doesn't upset me. But I don't want that farmer to move away just because of a temporary stench. It just means we know there are particles out there, good and bad. Sooner or later everything "blows over."

"Air quality" is never pristine. (If you didn't catch on, we are no longer talking about smog.)

Unwanted particles float in and out. Winds come up and blow everything around. And fresh air returns. But the particles and the view will always be distorted.

Every story, and often even scientific studies, has two versions. One doesn't have to be right to make the other one wrong.

The air quality in Wyoming was poor to very poor those days. But the fire ended and the bad air particles moved on.

What is right and what is wrong may never be seen from where I sit.

But just as catching a whiff of a skunk on a bike ride, brief but very poor "air quality" reminds me how good the air where we call home usually is.


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