background image

Air Quality in the Community

Those who are more likely to notice “bad” air quality are children, elders and individuals with asthma.

Good air quality is one of the most crucial necessities that we often take for granted. Air quality isn’t usually a topic of the day—unless of course the air looks obviously polluted on your morning or evening drive home. Those who are more likely to notice “bad” air quality are children, elders and individuals with asthma.

According to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community website, the Community Development Department’s Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Air Quality Program is charged with assessing the Community’s airshed and developing a program to address air-quality issues. Since 1997, the division has worked to develop a comprehensive air-quality program that aids in enhancing the quality of life within the Community by protecting and preserving air quality.

The Community’s Air Quality Program is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-funded program, so it must follow EPA guidelines in addition to tribal codes. According to the Air Quality team, the EPA is pretty strict with the management of air-quality data. They must abide by the environmental section of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. The EPA aids in helping the Air Quality team to monitor pollutants, to inform the public, and to protect the Community as a whole.

This device is a PM10 Special Study Monitor.
Submitted Photos, Air Quality Program
Stan Belone, environmental engineer for the SRPMIC Air Quality Program, said, “Under the guidelines of the program, the data collected is reported to the EPA. By measuring pollution levels, we provide data for the Community. If [air quality exceeds healthful levels and a high pollution advisory is issued], those are reported and made available to the Community. That information is posted [for the public] on the Community’s Employee Alerts section on the SRPMIC Connections page. The purpose is to inform the Community members and employees who have asthma [or any health complications] so they are aware and they can manage their activities knowing when to stay inside.”

Good outdoor air quality is fundamental to our well-being. People with respiratory diseases, heart conditions and diabetes, along with children and elders, are particularly vulnerable to poor air quality.

Ambient air quality is monitored to ensure compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter (PM) 10, PM 2.5 (small particles that can enter the lungs) and ozone. Four air-quality stations are present in the Community: Lehi, Salt River High School, the Senior Center and off the Beeline Highway near the Salt River Landfill.

The flag program system is present in five locations throughout the Community. A yellow flag is flying outside of the Two Waters Building A (at time of photo), this shows that the air quality is moderate.
The Air Quality Program provides outreach by attending various events in the Community; providing posters, signs and flyers; visiting the Community schools; and through an air quality flag system. Air quality flags are posted at five locations within the Community: in the rear parking lot of Two Waters Building A, at Salt River High School, the Salt River Community Building, the Lehi Recreation Building and the Senior Center.

The next time you drive by one of these locations, be sure to check the color of the flag to know when it is best to stay inside.

“Because it gets cold [this time of year], a lot of people are burning wood. That’s adding to the pollution,” said Lily Bermejo, SRPMIC Senior Environmental Specialist–Tribal Brownfields. “Also, aside from the agricultural pollutants here in the Community, those who are driving fast on the dirt roads are also [kicking up dust], adding to the pollution. This is where temperature inversion comes into play.” A temperature inversion traps pollution close to the ground.

For more information, call the Air Quality Program at (480) 362-7626 or visit

Watch for upcoming Au-Authm Action News articles on particulate matter, temperature inversions and ozone.