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EPA sees air quality improving

By Kevin Pierson, Special to The Times

Ozone level statistics

n 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.

The 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.

From 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 time frame.

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 county.





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