•by Alan McArthur
The Kansas City Metro Area appears to have violated federal air quality standards during the last week in July and may lose its “clean air” status.
According to preliminary date collected by local air quality monitoring stations, the metro area’s amount of ground level ozone violated standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA.
The air quality violations were recorded at two of the eight monitoring stations in Kansas City. The monitors in Liberty and Trimble, Mo recorded the violation last month. Another monitor at Rocky Creek, near Highway 169 and Highway 435, went over the federal limit in June.
“Generally the highest concentration of ground level ozone is to the north or northeast of Kansas City,” said James Joerke, air quality program manager with the Mid-America Regional Council.
“The air currents generally come out of the south or southwest. Very rarely do monitors record high levels south of Kansas City.”
The measurements of air quality are generally taken as an average of ozone levels measured over a three year period.
Ground level ozone is sometimes called smog and is one of six pollutants monitored by state and local agencies under the Clean Air Act. Ozone can form from activities such as driving, painting, refueling, and using gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.
Nearly one-third of the ozone in Kansas City is created by cars and trucks.
According to Joerke, the EPA may designate Kansas City as a “non-attainment” of the Clean Air Act, removing the “clean air” designation.
The air quality violations will not be official until after the measurements are quality-assured by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Air Pollution Control Program. Joerke expects the data to be official by the end of the year.
“The ozone violations that Kansas City has experienced leave no doubt that area residents are breathing unhealthy air,” said Joerke. “Fortunately, with the help of many community stakeholders, we have developed solid regulatory and voluntary plans for making our air cleaner.”
There are measures that local agencies can take to restrict the amount of ozone created.
“We will focus on new controls on power plants and develop implementations for idling buses and heavy duty trucks,” said Joerke. “It may take only 18 to 24 months to develop guidelines for idling buses, but it will take longer for power plant controls. Each power plant air scrubber has to be individually designed.”
One of the major results from air pollution is the affect on public health.
“Public health is affected by air pollution,” said Joerke. “We have 25,000 kids in Kansas City with asthma or breathing problems. Yes, it will cost money later, but it costs now to be breathing dirty air. It’s a public health cost.”
Some actions by residents can impact the levels of ozone. Mowing lawns and refueling vehicles in the evening, using safer paints and solvents, and car pooling all reduce ozone creation.