By Kevin Pierson, Special to The Times
Ozone level statistics
Counties with an ozone level of less than 85 parts per billion are
considered to be in attainment with Ohio EPA and U.S. EPA regulations.
n From 2001 to 2003, Washington County had an ozone level of 86 parts per billion.
n From 2003 to 2005, Washington County had an ozone level of 81 parts per billion.
Source: United States Environmental Protection Agency Region 5.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is pushing for Washington and Wood
counties to be re-considered in a national air quality standard due to
the region’s improving air.
Specifically, the agency is filing
a redesignation for the two counties to “attainment” of the national
ambient air quality standard.
“It (redesignation) is an
indication in the improvement of air quality in the area,” said Steve
Marquardt, environmental engineer with U.S. EPA Region 5, which covers
Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. “This is
sort of the government’s way of taking action to show the improvement
in air quality.”
Marquardt attributed the drop in ozone levels
in Washington County to a reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions through
the NOX Sitcall, a federal clean air regulation that required power
plants to install air cleaners.
The other factor that helped
Washington County is the state’s implementation of the Clean Air
Implementation Rule, or CAIR, which reduces emissions by motor
vehicles, Marquardt said.
U.S. EPA Region 5 will handle
Washington County’s redesignation while U.S. EPA Region 3 handles Wood
County’s in a separate action.
In order to receive an attainment
status counties must have an ozone level of less than 85 parts per
billion over a three year time frame. From 2003 to 2005 Washington
County met that standard, EPA spokesmen said.
Prior to the 2003
through 2005 time frame Washington County exceeded the national ozone
level standard of 85 parts per billion by a small margin.
2001 to 2003 the county’s ozone level was 86 parts per billion but
dropped five points to 81 parts per billion during the 2003 to 2005
To keep the attainment status Washington County must
maintain an ozone level below the 85 parts per billion standard. A 10
year plan to meet the standard was proposed by the Ohio EPA along with
the redesignation request.
"Part of us being able to approve the
redesignation to attainment is the state showing that they can maintain
that clean air,” Marquardt said.
Eric Fitch, associate professor
and director of the environmental science program at Marietta College,
said the redesignation to attainment is good news for the county if the
scientific data is accurate. Fitch said he has some questions about how
reliable the data is.
“It’s good news, if it’s based on sound
background. My one concern is quite frankly where they’re doing the
measurements and how well it actually reflects the true ozone levels in
this area,” Fitch said.
U.S. EPA officials plan to formally file
the redesignation petition with the Federal Register in the near
future. After the petition is on file with the register the public will
have 30 days to comment or inquire about the redesignation of the