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Ohio EPA asks feds to waive ozone requirements

Ohio EPA asks feds to waive ozone requirements

Air quality in central Ohio is a two-headed problem.

On one hand, our air has never been cleaner. On the other, it still isn’t clean enough to protect people’s lungs.

Air quality has improved enough, though, that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency wants to ask the federal government to give central Ohio’s air a clean bill of health for ozone pollution. The region met old standards for ozone during a three-year period from 2012 through 2014, based on average ozone levels during that time.

But those averages wouldn’t have complied with new federal ozone requirements that went into effect this year. Central Ohio already has had one ozone alert this spring under the new standards.

“The good news is that our air is getting cleaner, so that’s good,” said Shelly Kiser, advocacy director for the American Lung Association in Ohio. “The old standard wasn’t protective enough of public health, so at the old standard, people were still getting sick — they were still getting sent to the hospital, to the emergency room, children were still having breathing problems. So if you’re saying you’re in attainment based on an old standard, you’re not protective enough for public health at that standard.”

The U.S. EPA in October lowered the threshold for ozone, which forms when pollution from industry, power plants, landfills and vehicles heat in sunlight, from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion. Regions that don’t meet those standards are designated as “nonattainment” areas by the federal government.

The Columbus region, which includes Franklin, Delaware, Fairfield, Knox, Licking and Madison counties, is currently designated as “nonattainment.” The Ohio EPA wants to change that designation and has called a public hearing for 3 p.m. June 2 at the EPA’s headquarters in Columbus.

Heather Lauer, a spokeswoman for the Ohio EPA, said the region’s eight-hour average ozone concentration for 2013 to 2015 was 71 parts per billion, below the old standard but above the new.

Reaching that level was often a dance on the edge: Central Ohio’s three-day average during the 2014 ozone season, which starts each April and ends each October, was exactly 75 parts per billion.

Ozone can cause or aggravate health problems, including asthma and heart disease, and can cause premature death. Regions issue warnings when ozone levels climb above the federal standard, something that usually happens on hot, sunny days. This year, the first warning came on April 18.

Lauer said the agency is making the request because central Ohio met the standards that were in place from 2012 through 2014.

Heidi Griesmer, another Ohio EPA spokeswoman, said in an email that when a region is in nonattainment, it affects how the Ohio EPA issues permits for air pollution.

“In a nonattainment area, Ohio EPA needs to ensure that air quality continues to get better when we issue new air permits,” she wrote. “In (an) attainment area, Ohio EPA ensures that air quality would not get worse from a new air pollution source.”

 

Craig Holman | Dispatch file photo Haze covers Downtown in this June 8, 2011, photo as a temperature of 94 degrees cooked pollutants into a blanket of smog.

Craig Holman | Dispatch file photo
Haze covers Downtown in this June 8, 2011, photo as a temperature of 94 degrees cooked pollutants into a blanket of smog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

larenschield@dispatch.com

Source: The Columbus Dispatch

By Laura Arenschield
The Columbus Dispatch • Monday May 23, 2016 6:21 AM

LINK: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2016/05/23/ohio-epa-asks-feds-to-waive-ozone-requirements.html

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