ALBUQUERQUE — The New Mexico Environment Department has agreed to test air monitoring equipment at five locations on the Navajo Nation to ensure the sites are taking accurate air quality samples.

The review is being done at the request of the Navajo Nation.

The air quality monitoring equipment to be checked includes New Mexico sites at Shiprock and Crownpoint in addition to Arizona stations at Tuba City, Fort Defiance and Nazlini, according to the state Environment Department.

The sites are maintained by the Navajo Environmental Protection Agency, which reviews Navajo Nation air quality independent of regulation by New Mexico or Arizona air quality agencies.

Charlene Nelson, an environmental program supervisor with the Navajo EPA, said the New Mexico Environment Department's annual check of the five air monitoring sites is done to double-check quality control work already completed.

"It's like a verification," she said, "because any air monitoring program usually has a quality assurance plan that says that they have to have an external auditor to check their instruments."

The third-party review ensures accurate and reliable measurements, Nelson said.

"Quality Assurance/Quality Control is important in maximizing data consistency and reliability," Navajo EPA Director Stephen Etcitty stated in a letter requesting the New Mexico aid. "In this regard, we appreciate the past assistance NMED has provided towards our continued work in air quality management on the Navajo Nation and the region, and we appreciate NMED's willingness in continued support."

The New Mexico Environment Department will review measures of equipment that tracks particulate matter in the air, department spokeswoman Marissa Stone said.

Also tested will be meteorological data collection equipment, including instruments measuring wind speed and air temperature.

"We are happy to grant this request to assist the Navajo Nation improve our shared air," said New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ron Curry in a prepared statement. "We assisted the Nation with similar requests in the past."

The state Environment Department has checked Navajo EPA air quality testing sites for at least five years, Nelson said.

James Monteleone:

jmonteleone@daily-times.com