Othello considering air quality policy

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OTHELLO — The Othello City Council is considering putting into place a policy that would allow the city to close the pool when air quality gets as bad as it has in the last few weeks.

“Air quality was an issue we struggled with at the pool,” said Amy Hurlbut, Othello parks and recreation coordinator.

Hurlbut said that while the pool was only closed for two days because of the poor air quality caused by smoke from fires near and far, there were still some struggles over keeping the pool open and a written policy would be helpful for the city.

“It will be useful for staff and the public to have a policy that says whether we are open or not,” she said.

In comparison, Moses Lake and Quincy both closed their pools for eight days because of the smoke.

Hurlbut is suggesting the city adopt a standard based on the State Department of Ecology’s air quality index, which declares air “unhealthy for everyone” when it reaches 150. She also said that when the air quality index reaches 100, unhealthy for sensitive individuals, that employees should have the choice to go home if the air is bothering them.

“We value one person’s health the same as another,” she said.

Hurlbut said the parks and recreation department canceled a week of softball because of the air, and limited the kinds of work parks and recreation employees could do.

“We did not have staff out working on ball fields,” she said.

However, Ecology does not have an air quality monitoring station in Othello, so Hurlbut said she kept track of the air quality in Moses Lake and Mesa, which is about 23 miles south of Othello.

The council directed Hurlbut to come back to the council with an actual policy at the city’s next meeting, which is set for Monday, Sept. 10.

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