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Published December 23, 2013, 11:45 AM

Researchers studying haze at Theodore Roosevelt Park's north unit

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Researchers from the National Park Service and Colorado State University are studying haze levels in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Researchers from the National Park Service and Colorado State University are studying haze levels in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Haze has become more noticeable in park's north unit, which is surrounded by intensive oil and gas development, the Forum reported.

Air quality has long been a concern around Theodore Roosevelt National Park and other parks in western North Dakota, including Fort Union and the Knife River Indian Village, where large, coal-fired power plants operate.

Emissions are now on the rise because of the dramatic growth of oil drilling and production in the region. Sources include drilling rigs, exhaust from the fleets of trucks servicing wells and the flaring of natural gas from wells not connected to collection systems.

"Haze has gotten a little bit worse," said Bill Whitworth, the chief of resources at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. "The haze — while it's increasing — it's not every day."

He said the haze is visible for a handful of days each year.

"That handful is getting a little bit bigger," Whitworth said. "It's not an emergency, but it's an emerging issue in the park."

Preliminary findings show a sharp rise in ammonium nitrate, a fine particle that produces haze, as well as fine particles from ammonium sulfate and soot.

The federal government is sharing its findings with state health officials.

"We really are out there trying to establish some baseline information," said John Vimont, who heads research and monitoring for the National Park Services' air resources division. "We don't know if we have a problem yet."

Monitoring for the research project started last winter, from November through March, and resumed this winter for the same period. Results will be analyzed later next year, Vimont said.

Once the results are in hand, officials will determine what if anything should be done to try to improve the haze issue.

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