Department of Ecology News Release - September 3, 2015

Eastern Washington dust storms trigger report to EPA
High-pollution levels in Kennewick exceed air quality standards

2013 dust storm, Kennewick, Wash.
OLYMPIA – Outdoor dust occurs throughout Washington, but in dry areas like Eastern Washington, dust is a significant air pollution problem.

Throughout the Columbia Plateau high winds can sweep up dust from farm fields and other unstable areas, and produce fierce dust storms. These dust storms can lead to extremely high levels of particle pollution and impact the community’s health and safety.

In 2013, three exceptional storms in Kennewick created high winds and excessive amounts of blowing dust. During these storms, Kennewick’s air pollution levels exceeded the national air quality standard.

The Washington Department of Ecology has developed a report showing the dust storms were uncontrollable events. Ecology will submit the report to the Environmental Protection Agency and ask to exclude the high-pollution levels from calculations used to determine if the area exceeded standards.

When standards are exceeded more than three times in a three-year period, local and state air quality agencies are required to take steps to reduce air pollution. The violations may also cause federal impacts that complicate transportation planning and cause stricter business permitting requirements. Plus if plans to return the area to compliance are not adequate, federal highway funds could be at risk.

Members of the public can access the report on Ecology’s Outdoor Dust web page and comment on the report.

How to comment

Comments are being accepted Sept. 3 through Oct. 5, 2015. Submit comments by email to or mail to Laurie Hulse-Moyer, Washington State Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504.


Camille St. Onge, communications, 360-584-6501; @ecologyWA