Department of Ecology News Release - August 17, 2016

Draft recommendation would list state as meeting new U.S. ozone standard
Ecology seeks comment on proposed request to EPA

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology plans to submit a draft recommendation to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stating that Washington meets the new, tougher federal air quality standards for ozone. Ecology first wants the public to weigh in on the proposal.

The EPA adopted a tighter ozone standard last year, based on current health studies. States face an Oct. 1 deadline to recommend whether EPA should designate any counties or regions as not meeting the new standard.

Although Ecology plans to tell federal authorities the state overall meets the new tougher standards, there isn’t enough data collected on Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties and they will be earmarked as “unclassified” as a result.

“Being marked as unclassified means that we haven’t collected enough data to make a recommendation,” said Ecology Atmospheric Scientist Ranil Dhammapala. “We’ve monitored ozone in the Tri-Cities for only one year and the EPA standard requires three years of monitoring data.”

Dhammapala and other Ecology scientists have discovered that ozone can reach high levels in the southern Columbia Basin. The agency is conducting a special study in the area to help pinpoint the origin of high Tri-Cities ozone levels.

Ground-level ozone can harm delicate tissues in peoples’ respiratory systems. The elderly, very young children and people with existing respiratory or heart conditions are particularly at risk. Ozone also can weaken plants, affecting both natural areas and commercial forest and crop yields.

In the upper atmosphere, ozone is a beneficial gas. There, it filters harmful radiation in sunlight.

Ecology’s proposed status for Washington under EPA’s new ozone standard is available for review on the department’s website. The public can comment on the draft filing through Sept. 16, 2016.

To submit public comments, please email Ecology at AQComments@ecy.wa.gov, or write to: Joanna Ekrem
Department of Ecology
PO Box 47600
Olympia, WA 98504-7600

Contact:

Larry Altose, Ecology communications, 425-649-7009, @EcySeattle

Joanna Ekrem, air quality program, 360-407-6826