Archive for Monday, June 23, 2008

County must meet stricter ozone standards

Local health leaders are on alert tonight as the quality of air flirts with new federal ozone standards. Now health officials are asking you to do your part to help keep the county in the clear.

June 23, 2008


Ozone-reducing tips

On the road:

¢ Ride the bus or carpool

¢ Gas up your vehicle at night

¢ Keep your car properly maintained and tuned

¢ Repair all vehicle leaks

¢ Keep tires properly inflated

¢ Drive the speed limit

¢ Combine errands in one trip

At home:

¢ Conserve energy

¢ Paint with water-based paints

¢ Plant trees

¢ Keep lawn mowers tuned up

¢ Use and store solvents wisely

¢ Keep fireplaces and wood stoves well-maintained

- Source: Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department

Health officials are on alert, as the air quality in the Lawrence area flirts with a new ozone standard that could have significant economic consequences for Douglas County if breached.

In March, the Environmental Protection Agency lowered the national smog standards to a level that the Lawrence area, historically, has barely met, according to health leaders.

"That is a big concern," said Richard Ziesenis, Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department director of environmental health.

The EPA tightened the amount of ozone, commonly known as smog, allowed in the air to no more than 75 parts per billion, compared with the old maximum standard of 84. In 2006, measurements from a monitor at the Lawrence Airport came in at 72 parts per billion. In 2005, the average sat at 73.

"We would've still been in compliance, but barely," Ziesenis said.

Ozone dangers

Ozone, a colorless gas formed by a chemical reaction in the atmosphere, can harm people's lungs. The EPA strengthened its standards, in part, to prevent cases of bronchitis and aggravated asthma, hospital and emergency room visits, nonfatal heart attacks and premature death.

The EPA has faced scrutiny for the new limits because an EPA science advisory board had recommended a limit of 60 to 70 parts per billion to protect vulnerable groups, especially children, the elderly and people suffering from asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

Communities nationwide have until March 2010 to meet the new EPA standard. If they don't, the government would be required to use environmental controls to reduce local ozone emissions, and in a worse-case scenario federal highway funding could be cut and a moratorium could be placed on some new industry coming into the county, Ziesenis said.

"These controls would likely have significant economic and economic development impacts," said Donna Bell, Lawrence-Douglas County Health Board chairwoman, in a letter to elected Lawrence and Douglas County leaders.

Meeting the standard

The Lawrence airport monitor, which gauged the amount of ozone in the air, was removed in 2006 after the reading seemed satisfactory at the time. Presently, there's no way to determine how much ozone is in the local air, but leaders must be prepared for the monitor to be reinstalled by the state at any time.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment is waiting to hear from the EPA about how extensive the state's monitoring network needs to be under the more stringent standards, said Tom Gross, air monitoring and planning chief for KDHE's bureau of air and radiation.

"Many of the midsize metropolitan areas across the country are going to have to worry about whether or not they're going to meet the standard," he said. "It's going to be challenging to meet."

Measurements from multiple monitors in the Kansas City region aren't meeting the new regulation, and a few didn't meet the old one, Gross said. The ozone numbers are measured from a three-year average. The fourth-highest measurement between April 1 and Oct. 31, known as ozone season, for the last three years is averaged.

"They violated the 85 last season," Gross said. "That triggered us to put in some new requirements for the Kansas City area : in order to reduce emissions further."

Raising awareness

To ensure the Lawrence area doesn't meet the same fate, the health department board has asked the city and county governments to take steps to raise awareness about reducing emissions, so it can remain in compliance with the new EPA standards, which haven't been revised in more than a decade.

"Probably the biggest concern we have in Douglas County is the commuter traffic," said Ziesenis, of the health department. "That's the biggest contributor that private citizens have any control over, that they can reduce."

Ziesenis encourages commuters to join a car pool. Other ways individuals can help reduce ozone is by refueling their automobiles after dark, mowing their lawns as late in the day as possible, and not idling their vehicle any longer than necessary, Ziesenis said. Ozone forms in the hottest time of the year when the air is still.

"You try to reduce the levels of ozone in the peak times of the afternoon, when the temperature is at its highest," said Ziesenis. "It's just the highest reactive period."

Taking action

Local governments have already made efforts to cut down on ozone emissions generated by government employees. Lawrence and Douglas County governments are working to retrofit some of their diesel trucks with mechanical devices that reduce pollution and emissions, Ziesenis said. He said the Lawrence school district had already retrofitted about 90 buses to help reduce ozone.

Ziesenis said Westar Energy's coal-fired plant in Lawrence certainly contributed to ozone, though the company had taken steps to reduce the emissions it produced.

"We've got several projects going at the Lawrence Energy Center," said Bill Eastman, of Westar Energy. "We're spending an awful lot of capital dollars to take care of emission reductions."


Richard Heckler 9 years, 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

bd 9 years, 11 months ago

Auntie, you crack me up!!!!!I guess we will have to hold it in longer or start using the old bong again!Saw them last summer!

Brian Laird 9 years, 11 months ago

FreshairFanatic says "I'm confused. If ozone is smog, then why is it colorless? I thought smog was the brown cloud that we see settling over cities, emanating from factories and spewing out of city buses?"Ozone is one component of the complex chemical phenomena we call "photochemical smog"Cars emit nitrogen monoxide NO, CO and hydrocarbons, as well as CO2 and H2O. Hydrocarbons also come from evaporation from gas pumps while filling. In the presence of oxygen, NO is oxidized to NO2 (nitrogen dioxide), which is the brown component of smog. In the presence of sunlight, NO2 is broken down into NO and a very reactive oxygen atom, O, which will react with another oxygen molecule (O2) to form ozone (O3). The fact that sunlight is needed here means that this is more of a problem in the summer daytime. O + O2 --> O3Ozone is also formed when oxygen, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons react. One of the byproducts of this reaction is PAN (peroxyacetyl nitrate), which is a powerful lachrymator, or "tear producer" and can cause breathing difficulty. Ozone is not the primary problem in smog and are not emitted directly by cars, but it is an irritant and is a convenient measure of the amount of smog present. If there were no nitrogen monoxide or hydrocarbon emissions from cars and gas pumps, then there would be no production of ozone. A catalytic converter in a car is designed to reduce NO to harmless N2 and O2 and to oxidize CO and hydrocarbons to CO2 and H2O. This is probably more than you wanted to know, but I hope that it answers your question.

fu7il3 9 years, 11 months ago

I was in a class several years ago in which a NASA scientist told me it was ridiculous to think that chlorofluorocarbons are responsible for the break down of the ozone. He said that the ozone goes through a natural process of breaking down and building up, thus creating "holes."He said the Chloroflurocarbons are heavier than air, and that by the time they significantly affect the ozone layer, we'll all be dead from lack of oxygen.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 11 months ago

Time to stock up on new forms of transportation before they all skyrocket in price. USA Made New Balance shoes for walkingGiant,Cannondale,Specialized or Trek Commuter Bikes. Commuter bikes will likely be more comfortable. There are a variety of bike trailers available even for hauling pets.*The T and KU appear to be working together on providing service to Lawrence. Buying a pass allows riders to use either service. That makes dollars and sense. Bus servicewill save citizens a ton of dough.Skateboards and more such as rollerblades.Hybrid vehicles are a quiet way to travel however last week we were told Crown Motorshad 42 Prius on back order.

fu7il3 9 years, 11 months ago

"To be honest, I always wondered how a family of heavy molecules get up there too: Did he have some explaination for why there is such a big hole especially around the south pole? Was he thinking that was some natural cycle?"That's the way he explained it to us anyway. Just a cycle of breaking down and replenishing the ozone.

Michael Capra 9 years, 11 months ago

it will all be a mess with Ziesenis taking care of it what a joke

FreshAirFanatic 9 years, 11 months ago

"The EPA tightened the amount of ozone, commonly known as smog...""Ozone, a colorless gas..." I'm confused. If ozone is smog, then why is it colorless? I thought smog was the brown cloud that we see settling over cities, emanating from factories and spewing out of city buses?Smog is some combination and derivative of hydrogen, nitrogen, sulfur, etc, right? So how does H + N + S = 03? The "approved" levels are dropping from 84 to 75 parts per BILLION! Are you kidding me! Parts per BILLION! That leaves 999,999,925 parts of other particles. Which just happens to be the particles all the "ozone reduction" activities try to address. The crap we are spewing into our air. Ozone is not the problem. If ozone wasn't around then we wouldn't be either. Marion, you're are correct. But, in this case, more accurate science needs to be introduced and I don't have the space or time.

tolawdjk 9 years, 11 months ago

If Lawrence falls below the standard, life continues as you know hall will still be incompetent, liberals and republicans will still blame each other for the ills of the world, you will still want to keep from driving around during the first weeks of fall semester as new freshmen try to find their way around town and end up driving clueless.If Lawrence ends up above the standard...KDHE and the administration will have to develop a plan to return to compliance. Most likely that will first target large scale industry, but given that the comission has done an excellent job of running those that were here out of town and keeping others from entering, it will probably require different approaches. Better vapor recovery at gas stations, public awareness of household emission sources....the big one that would most likely effect you individually could possibly be mandated vehicle emissions testing. When you don't have alot of industry and you want to "fairly" spread the pain, that seems to be the preferred option. Fail, and you have to retest and pass or you vehicle will be denied tags and registration with the repairs the responsibility of the owner. Denver has this and has recently announced that they will go as far as giving the owner of a failed car $1000 to take the car off the roads.

fu7il3 9 years, 11 months ago

What exactly happens if they fall below the standard? Do we win a toaster? If Lawrence fails to meet the standards, I know a lot of cities that are far worse off.

repaste 9 years, 11 months ago

Turnpike does pollute a lot " the lines on the road look like dots" I think we should enforce speed limits - saves gas ,cleaner air and present system just allows police to pull over whomever they choose , since all are breakig the law. A police state?

Richard Heckler 9 years, 11 months ago

While we are concerned with air quality why not water quality. Water becomes contaiminated by herbicides,pesticides and chemical fertilizers as it leeches through the soil or washes off into our drinking water supplies. Wouldn't be great if Lawrence Parks and Rec were to become totally chemical free thus becoming the example?Another means to help out the air is having commercial mowing people go to every 10 days instead of every 7.AND if they insist on using toxic chemicals move to a spot treat only policy. Also introduce natural/organic fertilizers into their schedules as there are plenty available.

FreshAirFanatic 9 years, 11 months ago

Boltzman. Great explanation. I was with you until you said... "If there were no nitrogen monoxide or hydrocarbon emissions from cars and gas pumps, then there would be no production of ozone." That's not true. Ozone forms by the reaction of UV light (sun) and O2. It's how we get the ozone layer in the upper reaches of the atmosphere. (fu7il3 adn none2) Ozone was here before cars and factories. Mother nature supplements the process of ionization with Ozone to clean the environment. Charged particles from things like lightning drop particulates (soot, volcanic ash, pollen, etc) out of the air, and Ozone scrubs the air and surfaces of everything else. Ozone is the best tool to break down harmful substances. The reason for the hole. 3 molecules (O3) weigh more than 2 (O2) and fall due to gravity. The third wheel (O) breaks off to oxidize/clean and the resultant pair is either inhaled or begins to ascend again where they once again pick up another O when the UV light reacts. Kind of like spraying lysol all over your's a natural sanitization. The problem...our supply of lysol can't keep up with demand.

Rationalanimal 9 years, 11 months ago

Don't be deceived, this is FACISM billed as "save the ozone." Part of an orchestrated effort by the Marxists in Lawrence to clamp down on personal freedom.

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