Recently, the Sierra Club said the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Kansas State University persuaded the Environmental Protection Agency to turn off an ozone air quality monitor near Manhattan during the start of last year's pasture burning season. KDHE spokesperson Sara Belfry says that's not exactly how things developed last year.
Craig Volland, the Sierra Club's air quality committee chair, said the decision on the air quality monitor was made to avoid both research limitations and possible repercussions from possible sanctions by the EPA. Belfry says that's not accurate, saying it's the EPA's choice to turn off monitors.
Belfry says the EPA is supposed to put out new air quality monitoring regulations by the end of the year. Asides from the Manhattan site, the other two closest monitors to Emporia are in Topeka and Wichita. Belfry isn't sure if the EPA will recommend having a monitor closer to Emporia, even though the Flint Hills relies heavily on pasture burns to clear out noxious weeds and improve grass quality for cattle. Smoke from the Flint Hills can travel past Omaha and Des Moines to the northeast and as far east as Nashville.