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Montana news about the environment, natural resources, wildlife, climate change and more.

Montana receives federal funding to expand air quality monitoring stations

An air quality monitor in Choteau, MT.
Mason Dow
An air quality monitor in Choteau, MT.

Montana has received federal funding to expand air quality monitoring stations, particularly in rural areas.

If you open up the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Today’s Air site, you’ll spot a new green dot over the town of Choteau as of this week. Choteau Mayor Chris Hindoien checks out the morning’s reading.

“I'm up. I'm looking at it right now. We are at good air quality. We have an AQI of 36,” Hindoien said.

AQI is the Air Quality Index and 36 is a healthy air reading. This will be the first time Choteau residents can look up their own air quality. Hindoien said this information can help make sure vulnerable members of their community stay safe.

“We've had a couple of days this summer that have been harsh and we've just told some of our older folks or those with breathing issues, you know, play it cool, stay inside,” Hindoien said.

Previously the nearest air quality readings came from Great Falls.

Earlier this summer as wildfire smoke from Canada blanketed Montana skies, air reached unhealthy levels with AQI readings as high as 200.

With the addition of the Choteau monitor, there are now 23 of these stations spread across Montana.

The DEQ has received over $450,000 of federal funding under the Inflation Reduction Act to expand air quality monitoring efforts in rural areas and schools. More stations are expected this year.

Ellis Juhlin is MTPR's Rocky Mountain Front reporter. Ellis previously worked as a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a reporter at Yellowstone Public Radio. She has a Master's Degree in Ecology from Utah State University. She's an average birder and wants you to keep your cat indoors. She has two dogs, one of which is afraid of birds.
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