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North Idaho’s West Silver Valley reaches “attainment status” for fine particulate matter

November 17, 2021

Contact: Dan Smith, DEQ Regional Airshed Coordinator, dan.smith@deq.idaho.gov

WEST SILVER VALLEY —North Idaho’s West Silver Valley has been redesignated as “attainment” for the 2012 annual fine particulate matter (PM2.5) National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS).

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) submitted a request for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to redesignate the area based on improvements in overall air quality and a reduction in particulate pollution.

“We want to thank the West Silver Valley community for their efforts to improve air quality in North Idaho. This action from EPA recognizes the local residents who took a community-minded approach to this matter and the years of hard work that made this milestone possible,” said DEQ Air Quality Division administrator, Tiffany Floyd.

The West Silver Valley Airshed, which runs from Cataldo to Big Creek and includes portions of the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River, has been designated as a nonattainment area for PM2.5 since 2015, meaning it violated the federal health-based annual standard for this pollutant.

With help from an EPA Targeted Airshed Grant, DEQ launched an ambitious outreach program aimed at improving air quality in the region. From 2016 to 2021, DEQ worked with the West Silver Valley community to upgrade over 200 old woodstoves to new EPA-certified units, installed 60 woodsheds, and partnered with the Kellogg School District to develop an innovative education program centered on air quality. Taken together, these measures have helped the West Silver Valley meet the NAAQS for the first time in many years.

DEQ’s Coeur d’Alene regional air quality coordinator, Dan Smith, expressed gratitude for the community’s participation.

“It was great to be able to help folks get a new stove and show them the best ways to burn. My favorite thing about this program was the time I got to spend with the folks up in the Silver Valley,” Smith said.

City of Pinehurst fire chief, Mark Aamodt, celebrated the improvement in public safety as a result of these changeout efforts.

“We’ve seen a reduction in the number of structure and chimney fires since the program began,” Aamodt said. “Replacing older, out-of-date chimneys and stoves has had a tremendous positive effect on public safety in the valley.”

Smith encourages the community to continue these air quality improvement efforts to ensure the valley’s air remains clean for future generations.

“As more and more families move to the Silver Valley, we need to help newcomers keep our air quality where it is today,” said Smith. “This includes burning dry wood, using a new EPA-certified stove, and following best burning practices.”

To learn how you can help improve our air, go to https://www.deq.idaho.gov/air-quality/improving-air-quality/.

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