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Air Quality Program

Tacoma-Pierce County Maintenance Area


Effective March 12, 2015, EPA redesignated the Tacoma-Pierce County area to attainment for the 2006 24-hour fine particle national ambient air quality standard.  EPA also approved a maintenance plan that provides for continued compliance for the next 10 years.  This maintenance plan covers the first 10 years of a 20-year planning cycle designed to make sure that the area remains below the federal standard.

What is being done to reduce fine particle pollution?

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency continues to work closely with the community to improve air quality and to carry out the recommendations of a task force formed in 2011. Actions include:

  • Use incentives to help residents replace their polluting, uncertified wood stoves and inserts.
  • Increase overall compliance with burn bans by enhancing and increasing enforcement.
  • Implement a Stove Rule prohibiting uncertified wood burning devices after September 30, 2015, in the Smoke Reduction Zone only (residents who qualify may obtain an exemption if their uncertified wood stove is their only adequate source of heat). For more information, see PSCAA’s website.
  • Execute an ambitious outreach and education campaign to help the public comply with burn bans and remove old, polluting uncertified devices.
  • Reduce fine particle pollution from other sources such as gasoline and diesel engines, ships, and industry.

Why was the area classified as nonattainment?

EPA classified the Tacoma-Pierce County area a nonattainment area because fine particle (PM2.5) pollution levels did not meet healthy limits from 2006-2008. The nonattainment classification was a result of:

  • A stronger air pollution limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2006. (Under the stronger standards, Pierce County's air quality was considered unhealthy.)
  • Too many winter days when fine particle pollution levels went above the limit.

Fine particle pollution in the Tacoma-Pierce County area comes mainly from smoke due to burning in wood stoves and fireplaces. It is worse during the winter months when more households are burning wood for heat. In addition, stagnant air traps the smoke from these fires close the ground and cause air pollution to build up rapidly.

What is fine particle pollution?

Fine particles are microscopic bits of soot, dust, or smoke that are a fraction of the size of a single human hair. Fine particles (or particulate matter) are one of the six criteria air pollutants monitored and regulated under the Clean Air Act.

What are the health effects of fine particle pollution?

Fine particles are easily inhaled deep into our lungs and travel into the lungs and circulatory system. As a result, fine particles have both short- and long-term health effects. Exposure to fine particle pollution is linked to decreased heart and lung function, respiratory disease, asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, and premature death. Fine particle pollutions affect everyone, but is most harmful to children, older adults, and people with respiratory and cardiac diseases.

What can you do to keep the air healthy?

  • Burn dry wood, if you burn wood for heat.
  • Obey burn bans.
  • Replace your uncertified wood stove with a cleaner heating device.
  • See Air Safe Pierce County for more information.

More Information:

Contact Us


Tacoma-Pierce County PM2.5 Redesignation Request and Maintenance Plan

Frequently Asked Questions
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Joanna Ekrem
(360) 407-6826