Air quality improves but still not up to par

Nov. 4, 2004, midnight | By Danielle Foster | 18 years ago

Washington, D.C., needs extension to meet EPA standards

The Washington area ranks 13th among the smoggiest cities in the nation, according to a report released by the environmental group U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG).

Ozone, the primary constituent of smog, exceeded the eight-hour ozone health standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) five times between January 2004 and the beginning of September in Washington, D.C. Maryland surpassed the standards 37 times in 2004, according to a U.S. PIRG news release.

The EPA web site defines ground-level ozone as the combination of man-made pollutants that react chemically with the rays of the sun. Smog is transported by the wind and often affects cities miles away from where it was formed. Days when heat stays near the ground can be hazardous to health, particularly to individuals of the "sensitive group." These are children, people with respiratory diseases, people who are active outdoors and those who are especially sensitive to ground-level ozone.

The D.C. metropolitan area has a history of high smog levels and has not met EPA requirements for over 27 years, said Christopher Cripps of the EPA's Air Quality Planning Branch. The region failed to meet Clean Air Act requirements and received an extension from the EPA. The metropolitan region submitted an attainment plan in February of 2004 that states how the area will achieve one-hour ozone standards by Nov. 15, 2005.

The primary reason for the poor air quality in and around D.C. is automobile related, according to Maria Weidner, who works with the Earth Justice organization and lives in D.C. "We have a lot of congestion here; we have a lot of traffic," Weidner said. There are also pollutants outside the Metropolitan area that affect D.C. "There are big power plants that got exempted from the Clean Air Act as long as their pollution levels did not increase," Weidner explained. "[There are] a lot of old plants still operating like it's 1950."

Steps are being taken to improve local air quality, however, by several environmental groups and organizations. Public transportation is being encouraged, and there is also a campaign to "switch buses from diesel to natural gas," Weidner said. The EPA suggests making sure automobiles are well tuned, carpooling and sealing all the lids of chemical solvents tightly.

Since the Clean Air Act of 1990, several other laws and amendments were passed to improve air quality. Regulations have tightened on sources that contribute the most to creating various smog components. "These regulations include emission standards for new cars, trucks and buses," said Cripps. There will also be restrictions made for off-road vehicles.

The Washington Area consists of:
-The District of Columbia
- Maryland: Montgomery County, Frederick County, Prince George's county, Calvert County and Charles county.
- Virginia: Loudon County, Stafford County, Arlington, Prince William county, Fairfax County as well as the cities of Fairfax, falls Church, Manassas, Manassas Park and Alexandria.

For more information on D.C. air quality click here.

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Danielle Foster. Danielle is a senior and all she can say is "it's about time". Now 17, driving, and close to completing the Communication Arts Program, she is ready to graduate on June second. This is her last year at Blair though, and she plans to make … More »

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