Past Activities

Past Activities

Ute Mountain Ute (UMU) Tribal lands encompass a large expanse of the Four Corners Region over three states. The Environmental Programs Department (EPD) initiated an Air Quality (AQ) Program to track and assess air pollutants in and around the Tribal lands.

In 2010, the EPD received its first Clean Air Act (CAA) 103 grant through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 8 for fiscal year 2011 to develop an AQ monitoring program. The UMUT Environmental Programs Department evaluated Tribal, area, and regional sources and talked with other area AQ programs with established monitoring stations including the Southern Ute Indian Tribe (SUIT), Navajo Nations Air Quality Programs, and  Mesa Verde National Park. Staff attended training from The Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) and the Tribal Air Monitoring Support Center (TAMS).

The program established the first air quality station at the White Mesa Community in Utah to monitor and assess the possibility of airborne pollutants from White Mesa Mill to the neighboring Tribal lands and impacts to the community. The measurement goal was to collect air samples with a High Volume Monitor to collect total particulate matter (TSP) on a filter. As the sampler pulled a large volume of air over a filter, the particulate matter, or dust, was collected. The filter was sent to a laboratory for analysis of radionuclides from the uranium decay chain. This resulted in measurements of different isotopes of uranium, thorium, radium, and lead, in addition to total alpha and beta radiation (gross alpha/beta) and gamma spectroscopy. A weather station was also installed to collect information regarding the weather patterns of White Mesa, including wind speed and direction, temperature, relative humidity, total precipitation, barometric pressure, and solar intensity. 

In 2014, the AQ Program began the expansion from one location in White Mesa to an additional location at Towaoc, CO, the community’s center in Colorado. Meteorological parameters, such as temperature, pressure, and wind direction and speed, are monitored in conjunction with pollutants in the ambient air.

Over the years 2012 – 2020, the TSP Program has resulted in a total of 176 sample filters being analyzed, or 4298 hours of accumulated particulate data at the Tribal Air Station locations. Of those sampled, 164 samples and 4035 hours took place at the White Mesa location, and remainder at the Towaoc location. Currently, samples are taken each week.

The Towaoc station also housed two FEM (Federal Equivalent Method) continuous monitoring particulate samplers (TEOMs), one for pm 10 (10 micrometers and less) and one for pm 2.5. These samplers were on loan through ITEP/TAMS. In 2017, the SUIT gave the Ute Mountain Ute Air Program equipment for the monitoring of ozone and nitrogen oxides (NOx). In 2019, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s AQ Program began a regulatory monitoring program for ozone, and this program has successfully continued up to the present.

The two FEM TEOMs have been replaced by another continuous monitoring instrument, the Teledyne T640 that measures 2.5 pm (mentioned in the first section above).

A variety of tasks have been performed related to air monitoring over the program years: 

  • Level IV Emissions inventory had been performed to evaluate source from off-reservation sources that effect the Tribal airshed.
  • In 2014, the AQ Program performed the White Mesa Dust Study. The study determined the deposition rates of uranium, radium, polonium, and also compared radionuclide air concentrations with those from the White Mesa Mill and found they were similar.
  • Point source data submitted to the National Emissions Inventory for the Title V source on the Reservation from 2017-2019.
  • A large-scale indoor radon measurement occurred in 2014-15, with a current program for re-testing at targeted Tribal buildings and requested Tribal member homes.
  • Personnel attended EPA-related air quality trainings to achieve knowledge and experience on a variety of topics which range from regulatory framework to managing a program to monitoring principals.
  • A portable ozone sampler monitored Reservation lands in New Mexico in 2021.