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Calcasieu, Cameron areas 'on bubble' with EPA for air quality

Last Modified: Friday, July 11, 2014 1:39 PM

By Justin Phillips / American Press

With all of the industry sprouting up across Southwest Louisiana, maintaining good air quality has become an increasingly important mission. During Tuesday’s City Council agenda meeting, Grant Bush, IMCAL executive director, presented information on the efforts to improve the air in the region and on how people can make a difference.

The two key categories in the discussion are good ozone and bad ozone. Good ozone is the naturally occurring component in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. It serves as the protective layer shielding people from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Bad ozone is what occurs lower in the atmosphere, near ground level. Emissions from cars, refineries and chemical plants all contribute to this bad ozone, commonly known as smog.

As of right now, the Calcasieu and Cameron Parish area is technically “on the bubble” with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency when it comes the area’s ozone numbers. Non-attainment, or failure to meet air quality standards, is the label given to any place with a level of 75 parts per billion or higher. Attainment, or meeting the standards, is applied to any place below 75 ppb. Lake Charles is at 74 ppb.

“The situation we have here is that we are in attainment at this time, and we want to stay that way,” Bush said.

In 2012, the EPA started a voluntary Ozone Advance Program to encourage emission reductions in ozone attainment areas to help meet air quality standards. IMCAL asked to be a part of the program and was quickly welcomed in.

“We got with all of the agencies in our area, businesses and put together through the Southwest Alliance, the Air Quality Task Force. Lake Charles is represented on that as well,” Bush said. “With that, we pooled a great deal of information behind what we wanted to do in that Air Quality Task Force in building our toolkit, our Ozone Advance Program for our community.”

Bush outlined the action plan being used to keep the area in attainment. The numbers driving the efforts come from three monitors in the area — in Vinton, Carlyss and Westlake. Bush provided some extra insight on what the numbers were for those specific monitors.

“Parts per billion is how they measure this air quality. Seventy-five is the max. You go over that and you’re in non-attainment,” Bush said. “Vinton and Carlyss had 70, and 67 in Westlake.”

Before he dove into the strategies within the action plan, he talked about the major aspects affecting air quality — and even addressed aspects that may go unnoticed.

“As we continue to look at what we have in our community, there’s marine and industrial which are heavily regulated right now. Transportation takes a big part of that pie as far as emissions in our community. Then there are the other areas that you may not think about all the time,” Bush said. “One of them we really don’t think about a lot is what we do on a daily basis. That could be filling our gas tanks, mowing our grass, maybe spraying our hair, maybe painting with lead-based paints. When we take all of that into account and we reduce in those areas too, it’s a benefit toward our action plan and helping continue in attainment.”

Efforts that can help reduce ozone pollutants include idling reductions and route optimization for the city’s fleet of vehicles. Residents can also fill their gas tanks before dawn or after dusk and bike or walk more. Bush said residents and city employees can also help by mowing lawns less often or varying the times to before dawn or after dusk.

One major effort focuses on schools. Bush said that over the last six months, local schools have been encouraged to get involved with the Flag Program. Four flags of different colors are used to describe the air quality for that particular day.

“It’s basically good is green, moderate is yellow and so forth down to hazardous. Normally you deal with some between the green and the yellow. If there is a high-ozone action day, that would be moderate to unhealthy, you may see your school put up a flag in that color letting the community know that today might be the day, if you have somebody that has difficulty breathing, that today’s not a good day to be outside,” Bush said. “It also teaches young people about the importance of air quality as well.”

Posted By: Sam On: 7/14/2014

Title: Mow your lawn before dawn or after drak?

Mow your lawn before dawn or after dark? did i misread this good advice? Mowing your lawn in the dark would be a major safety issue for everyone. I'm sure my neighbors would love for me to mow my lawn before sunrise too. Nothing like a good lawn mower noise to wake you up early in the morning before dawn.
Get real. Can't believe some company public relations person really said this. Worse that the AP just printed there idiotic remark.

Posted By: Dawubbies On: 7/12/2014

Title: It's definitely the hairspray

We live in an area with huge amounts of industry. That is obviously the biggest offender for emissions. This story needs to highlight that. The statement in this article by bush that air quality is some kind of "pie" for us to consume is a really pathological way of thinking about the environment. I would like to see the industry taken to task in a way that's like, " hey, you make a lot of money off of this community. We have to endure a lot so you can make that money. How about you invest in this community in ways like wind and solar energy."

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