June 22, 2017 Vol. 16 No. 31
Council asks state to install SO2 monitor closer to city
Written by Jeanne Davant   


The big reveal


The Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce unveiled its new logo at Commonwheel Artists Co-op on Tuesday, June 20. From left: graphic designer Jewels Burdick of Superfine Designs; Leslie Lewis, the chamber’s executive director; Gwenn David, president of the chamber’s board of directors; and Anna Mekeel, the chamber’s social media specialist. The new logo pays homage to Manitou’s iconic features, including Pikes Peak, the Manitou Incline, the Town Clock and the Manitou Spa Building. Information:

Photo by Rhonda Van Pelt

Manitou Springs City Council voted Tuesday to send a comment to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment requesting installation of a sulfur dioxide (SO2) monitor in or near the city.

The comment, drafted by Manitou resident Francois Raab, asks the department to amend its 2017 monitoring network plan and “avoid delaying consideration of our request until the 2018 Network Plan.”

According to Environmental Protection Agency rules based on population, the Pikes Peak region is required to have one SO2 monitor, which is located near the corner of U.S. Highway 24 and Eighth Street, Raab said. But that monitor might not be doing the job it’s supposed to do.

The monitor recorded SO2 levels in excess of air quality standards only four times between October 2013 and last December, and the levels have consistently decreased, Raab’s comment letter notes.

“There is a strong possibility that, if the Martin Drake Power Plant is emitting an SO2 plume with concentrations above the standard, the HWY24 Monitor would be located outside of that plume,” the letter states. “Continuing to monitor at the same location is most likely to continue confirming what is already known, rather than producing new data that will answer open questions.”

“It’s unclear how they decided to place the monitor on Highway 24,” Raab said. “Until now they had no modeling they considered valid.”

Environmental activists have raised concerns that Manitou Springs is in the direct path of an emissions plume from the Martin Drake power plant that could contain high concentrations of SO2 and other pollutants.

Sulfur dioxide emissions can cause respiratory irritation, especially among children with active asthma, older people and those with chronic lung conditions. Even at levels below federal standards, short-term episodes of SO2 emissions can trigger asthma attacks.

After hearing a presentation from activist Leslie Weise late last year, the Manitou Council sent a letter to Colorado Springs Utilities asking to see data on SO2 emissions from the plant.

Councilors toured the plant in January, but “we haven’t gotten any solid information,” Councilor Becky Elder said.

Weise said a 2014 model the Sierra Club commissioned showed that, when the wind and temperature are right, the plume lands on Manitou Springs. She suggested that the city contact the state department about getting an SO2 monitor.

The utility is developing its own new data and climate models. The results, which will indicate where higher levels of SO2 are likely to occur, are expected late this summer. Comments on the 2017 network plan are due June 27; the next opportunity won’t be until summer 2018.

Council asked Raab, a performance engineer with expertise in benchmarking, to draft the comment letter, which he described Tuesday as “technical.”

“I believe that the department is more receptive to comments of a technical nature than an emotional nature,” Raab said.

The letter proposes two options for amending the plan: Reclassifying the Highway 24 monitor and installing a new monitor, or relocating the monitor in or near Manitou Springs.

The department will use data from the CSU modeling to determine the proper site for the monitor.

That model could show that the highest likely concentrations of SO2 would be near the plant, near Cheyenne Mountain High School or in Manitou.

“I’ve seen two other models, which are conflicting,” Raab said. “We really don’t know what this new model will show. It could show nothing in Manitou, in which case they would absolutely not place it in Manitou. If we still want one, we can continue to work with CSU.”

Another option would be having a monitor installed by a private company at a cost of $5,000 a year, but “the best option is to have CSU install it,” Raab said.

Council voted unanimously to approve the comments.

“I think this is a great next step,” Councilor Coreen Toll said.