Air quality is important to the Central Midlands quality of life. As the designated local air-quality planning agency under the Federal Clean Air Act, CMCOG works with the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and county agencies to develop plans and programs that comply with Federal Clean Air Act standards. Efforts are geared toward improving the quality of life in the Central Midlands by attaining and maintaining air quality standards in a cost-effective manner.
With the Midlands region threatened by “nonattainment” status, it has become paramount that proactive measures be taken for improving air quality and ensuring attainment with current and future national ambient air quality standards. This situation creates an ideal opportunity for the diverse stakeholders of the Midlands region to collaborate and formulate a regional action plan. This has led to the creation of Clean Air Midlands, a coalition of public, private, education, health care, faith, and citizen stakeholders who promote regional cooperation for the purposes of improving air quality.
Participation in the coalition presents an ideal opportunity for all stakeholders across the region to take proactive steps toward improving air quality, regardless of any Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air pollution standards. Failure to act could lead to serious public health and economic challenges. Poor air quality not only worsens existing respiratory problems, but also contributes to heart disease, lung cancer and premature death. Possible economic ramifications include the inability of municipalities to recruit new industries and limit the amount of funding available for major transportation projects. Strong regional leadership in taking a cooperative, proactive approach will help to protect the health and quality of life of the 500,000-plus citizens that live, work, and play in the Midlands.
Ozone in the upper atmosphere is a beneficial and protective layer around the Earth, but ground-level ozone is harmful air pollution that threatens our health, quality of life, and the region’s economic prosperity. Ground-level ozone is created when sunlight reacts with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOX). Pollutants emitted by cars, certain power plants, and some industries are the main contributors to these chemicals. Reducing these emissions is necessary to reduce ground-level ozone formation.
The Clean Air Act gives the EPA authority to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). In the Greater Columbia and Central Midlands region, the primary pollutant of concern is ground-level ozone (aka “smog”). The ozone standard provides increased protection to the public, especially children and other at-risk populations, against a wide range of ozone induced health effects.
Ozone is tracked nationally utilizing an 8-hr averaged standard. The 4th highest 8-hour average is taken from each air quality monitoring station, then averaged from data over a 3-year time period. A violation occurs when the 3-year average of the 4th highest value is greater than .075 parts per million (ppm). By tracking ground level ozone violations this way, the effects of one-time outlier events are diminished while at the same time accounting for the highest ozone values during the 8-hr time period.
Areas not meeting the standard are not automatically designated non-attainment; rather an official course of action must occur. Specific requirements on how areas will meet the 8-hr standard are developed. All Central Midlands counties are currently in attainment as of 2016. Click Here for more information concerning the Consequences of a Nonattainment Designation.
Health Effects of Ozone
Ozone exposure may lead to:
- Shortness of Breath
- Chest pain when inhaling deeply
- Wheezing and Coughing
Long-term, repeated exposure to high levels of ozone may lead to large reductions in lung function, inflammation of the lung lining, and increased respiratory discomfort. The EPA estimates that 5% – 20% of the total U.S. population has a susceptibility to the harmful effects of ozone air pollution.
Do Your Part to Clear Our Air
Take Actions during All Warm-Weather
(May through September)
AND especially on OZONE ALERT! Days
Local, national and even international TV meteorologists report an Air Quality Index. This index provides an easy-to-understand way to explain the quality of the air. Anything below a 50 Air Quality Index (AQI) is considered ‘healthy’. Between 50 and 100 you might start seeing effects if you are affected by respiratory health conditions. An AQI above 100 is considered ‘unhealthy for certain groups’. The ozone AQI is based on the new 8-hr standard. When the AQI is above 100, it is an indication of an exceedance of the air quality standards.
As an Individual
As a Business
1. Drive less. Reduce #miles you drive by:
2. Avoid long idle times. Turn off your car after 30 seconds when not in traffic.
3. Replace gasoline yard tools with electric or hand tools.
4. Take actions that use non-hazardous components (e.g., to ward off pests inside & outside home).
5. Make your next vehicle a hybrid or other ultra-low emission vehicle.
6. Purchase Energy Star appliances.
7. Fuel your car during evening hours (non-day light).
8. Avoid slow-burning, smoldering fires. They produce the largest amount of pollution.
9. Use solar power for home and water heating.
10. Ignite charcoal barbeques with an electric probe or other alternative to lighter fluid.
1. Support Ozone Action Days (see www.scdhec.net/environment/baq).
2. Provide a tax-free commuting benefit program for employees.
3. Provide shower facilities and/or discount memberships to employees who walk or bicycle to work.
4. Offer flexible work hours or telecommuting options.
5. Use retrofit technologies for diesel fleets.
6. Become a “Green Business” (see www.coccpac.com).
7. Conduct an energy audit to reduce waste and cut cost.
8. Print documents with soy-based inks, which are less toxic.
9. Recycle print cartridges.
10. Use recycled paper.
For more information, call (803)744-5126 or email [email protected].
Knowing as much as you can about air pollution can empower you to make changes and help improve the air quality in your area! If you are interested in knowing more about air quality activities in the Columbia area, contact Guillermo Espinosa by phone at (803)744-5126 or by e-mail at [email protected].
For daily air quality forecasts and real-time air quality conditions in the Columbia area, visit AIRNow.gov. This website is produced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Park Service, news media, DHEC and other state agencies to report conditions for ozone and particle pollution.
EnviroFlash, a program provided by EPA, can send the ozone forecast to an emailaddress or cell-phone as soon as the ground-level ozone forecast is made.
Midlands Air Quality Forum-December 11, 2009