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Principal Investigator Detlev Helmig looks at data inside the air monitoring station at Union Reservoir in Longmont on April 8, 2020. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
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The Longmont City Council is scheduled to get a report Tuesday from research scientist Detlev Helmig about the air quality monitoring program that Helmig’s company, Boulder Atmosphere Innovation Research LLC, has been conducting under its contract with the city.

The city’s Environmental Services staff said in a memo to council for Tuesday night’s meeting that it had arranged for Helmig’s presentation to “allow Council and staff to evaluate if the objectives of the air quality study are being met.”

Boulder A.I.R.’s current Longmont air quality monitoring contract expires Aug. 31, and staff said it expects to bring council a proposed contract renewal in late August.

Council voted in March 2019 to authorize staff to prepare a contract with Boulder A.I.R. for what was anticipated to be a multi-year program of sampling and analysis of atmospheric emissions and possible pollutants from oil and gas operations near the city. Council approved that contract later that month.

The study also was to measure greenhouse gases and other emissions from non-oil and gas well sources, such as motor vehicles. The instruments at Union Reservoir and the airport track the presence of compounds such as carbon dioxide, ozone, nitrogen oxides, methane, benzene, and particulate matter, city officials have said.

Data for the air quality monitoring study has been collected at two locations, one near Union Reservoir east of Longmont and the other on the west side of the city, at Vance Brand Municipal Airport.

City staff said in March 2019 that the first year of Boulder A.I.R. LLC’s Longmont-area regional air quality study would cost the city an estimated $403,341 for the Union Reservoir site, and $154,905 for the west Longmont site.

Longmont’s expenses were to include paying an estimated $50,000 to install the testing stations.

Jane Turner, the Environmental Services staff’s oil and gas coordinator, said in a Monday email that the total amount to be paid Helmig’s company under the current contract is now projected to be $560,700 at the end of August, and the city’s cost for air-quality-related equipment and shelters has been $49,530.

In its memo for Tuesday night’s Council meeting, staff said data collection at the airport site began in September 2019 and at Union Reservoir in December 2019.

Information about the program can be viewed on a city air quality web page,  tinyurl.com/yyof9clu. Data collected at Boulder A.I.R.’s two Longmont monitoring stations is viewable in near real-time on a publicly available website, tinyurl.com/y38twje7.

In addition to Helmig’s Tuesday night presentation, quarterly summary reports will be available for review by City Council and residents upon receipt from Boulder A.I.R, city staff said.

If Longmont does proceed to renew its contract with Helmig’s company, the memo for Tuesday’s meeting said, city staff “has requested significant resources in the 2021 budget for oil and gas environmental monitoring, including an estimated $350,000 in anticipation of continued air quality monitoring.” Turner said Monday that the city had received a quote for that amount from Boulder A.I.R. for a second year of services. “However, a renewal contract and associated costs have yet to be finalized,” she said.

Helmig, a former University of Colorado Boulder research professor and scientist known for his work on air quality and pollution, was fired by CU this spring( after the university alleged that he had not separated his publicly funded research for CU Boulder’s Institute of Alpine and Arctic Research (INSTAAR) from his private business.

More recently, a CU Boulder audit alleged that Helmig had committed fiscal misconduct, including diverting business to his private company and costing the university more than $700,000. Earlier this month, however, this newspaper reported that that audit cotained a number of errors, including one abut Helmig’s contract with Longmont.

The original audit report incorrectly stated that a contract for air monitoring between CU Boulder and the city of Longmont was switched over to Helmig’s company. That was INSTAAR’s understanding, according to Frances Draper, a CU  Boulder senior strategic advisor for government and community engagement. But Draper said earlier the month that Longmont city officials told CU Boulder after the audit report that the city had always understood the contract would be through Boulder A.I.R.

Longmont city staff’s memo to council for Tuesday’s meeting makes no mention of Helmig’s termination by CU Boulder or the university’s audit.

Deputy City Manager Dale Rademacher said in an April email: “The City holds a contract for air quality monitoring with Dr. Helmig’s private company, not the University, based on his personal expertise. The air quality monitoring at Union Reservoir, Vance Brand Airport and throughout the City of Longmont is of the highest importance to the City Council, and we plan to continue this work.”

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