The Idaho Statesman
The Environmental Protection Agency Thursday didnt include
the Treasure Valley among the nation´s worst ozone-polluted
But local air quality officials say that doesn´t mean
we should breathe easy.
We´re right on the cusp, said Jim Werntz,
director of the EPA office in Idaho. The Treasure Valley,
along with Medford, Ore., and Spokane, Wash., are communities
where ozone pollution is a growing concern, he said.
The EPA named areas that do not meet, or attain, clean air
standards. So called non-attainment areas must
come up with federally approved plans to clean up the air.
Idaho officials have been touting ways to reduce pollution
in an effort to avoid federal sanctions that could shut the
door on road and highway construction and limit business expansion.
Ozone is produced by paint and gasoline vapors combining
at ground levels with nitrogen oxides from fossil fuel burning.
Heat and sunlight turn it into smog making summer the
prime time for this type of pollution. However, the ozone
level made for less-than-good air quality already one day
Business leaders and others have said being labeled non-attainment
can be both a perceived and real deterrent to industries looking
to move to the Treasure Valley. The tag essentially means
polluted. But it also means stricter industrial permits for
new businesses or modified operations.
There are also health effects to ozone pollution. It can
irritate lungs, causing inflammation like a sunburn. People
with respiratory problems are more at risk, but repeated exposure
can cause problems for anyone, including permanent lung damage.
Wednesday, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality
released a summertime response plan, detailing measures residents
can take when ozone levels start to soar.
Every citizen in the Treasure Valley is impacted by
ozone, Werntz said, and every citizen should be
part of the solution.
The idea is to avoid spikes in pollution levels, because
the EPA classifies non-attainment areas based on a rolling
three-year average of the fourth highest level.
For example, over the last three years the fourth-highest
ozone readings in the Treasure Valley have been 73, 81 and
76 parts per billion, for an average of 76.6 parts per billion.
The federal standard is 80; however anything below 85 is
rounded down to 80.
To violate the federal standard after this summer, the Treasure
Valley´s reading would have to be 101 or higher. That
is unlikely, officials say, considering the highest reading
has been 88 parts per billion.
But as the valley´s population continues to grow, officials
say the number of cars also will increase, thereby putting
more pollution into the air.
For example, if over a three-year period, the valley has
readings of 83, 85 and 87 the federal standard would