The Times Picayune - Louisiana ozone pollution levels could surpass
By Lauren McGaughy, The Times Picayune
Louisiana's ozone pollution levels could soon exceed national limits
Ozone, what we commonly refer to as smog, forms in the atmosphere when emissions from business, industry and cars come into contact with sunlight.
Currently, the Baton Rouge area -- comprised of East and West Baton Rouge, Iberville, Ascension and Livingston parishes -- is the only part of the state not meeting the EPA's 75 ppb standard for ozone pollution. It is therefore classified as an EPA "nonattainment area" for ozone.
However, an air monitor operated by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ, in Shreveport also showed levels above national limits at the end of 2012. New Orleans-area ozone levels are also threatening to exceed these standards by hovering right at the 75 ppb line.
DEQ Senior Scientist Mike Vince said long-term planning to avoid other area being slapped with the "nonattainment" label are especially important now as EPA is expected to release even stricter nonattainment numbers at the end of 2013.
Vince said the number could be between 60-70 ppb, as previously discussed, or as low as 55 ppb. In this case, "the entire state of Louisiana would be out of attainment," Vince said. "Even in our best area in the state [for air quality, around Monroe,] the ambient level up there is around 62 ppb."
Being classified as a nonattainment area by EPA can be troublesome for business. It can delay site selection process for both new facilities and expansions, especially for manufacturing projects, and warrant a more expensive environmental permitting process for violators.
But steps can be taken to avoid such penalties. Primarily, DEQ is encouraging local areas to join EPA's Ozone Advance program, which creates a partnership with the federal agency to create locally focused air quality programs.
The state agency is also encouraging Louisianans to take its survey and create local groups like the Baton Rouge Clean Air Coalition to discuss how citizens can work to local improve air quality.
In a press release sent Wednesday, DEQ and BRCAC urged locals to organize carpools and combine errands. They also urged less-frequent use of lawn and garden equipment, four wheelers and boats, which contribute 19 percent of the nitrogen oxide emissions and four percent of the volatile organic compound emissions in the Baton Rouge area.
But the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, an environmental advocacy group, said while citizens can always do more to encourage environmentally-friendly living, industry in the Baton Rouge area should also be held accountable.
"The state loves to put the onus on individuals to correct what they do daily, even though individual actions are just a small fraction of the pollution," the Brigade's Anna Hrybyk said. "I agree carpooling is important, but if we can get industry to reduce their VOC & PM (ozone-producing) pollution it will go a lot further in solving the problem."