Last Modified: Monday, July 02, 2012 11:48 AM
The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality was in Lake Charles Wednesday to encourage the area to participate in an Environmental Protection Agency program that helps areas ensure they remain below allowable ozone levels.
The Ozone Advance Program is designed to help local governments “continue to meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ground-level ozone,” according to the EPA website.
The Lake Charles area has been riding the line on acceptable ground-level ozone levels the past few years, although levels are the lowest they have been in more than 30 years, according to numbers provided by the DEQ.
Ozone levels averages over the past three years, called design values, are calculated at the end of each calendar year.
The EPA dropped the allowable value from 84 to 75 in 2008, although that won’t be enforced until July 20, according to Tim Bergeron, environmental chemical specialist with DEQ.
From 1981-84, the area’s design value hovered from between 99 and 100. Since then, it has been steadily declining. The area’s design value on Dec. 31, 2011 was 76, 74 the previous two years and 75 in 2008, the DEQ said.
“The air quality, since we started monitoring, continues to improve but the standard was just lowered,” Bergeron said. “The fact that Lake Charles is on the line with the ozone standard, it doesn’t mean that the air quality has deteriorated, it just means that the EPA decided that a lower standard was needed to protect human health.”
There are three testing sites in the area, according to DEQ — Westlake, which had a value of 67 at the end of 2011, Vinton, which had a value of 74, and Carlyss, which had a value of 76. The highest value in the area is used, Bergeron said.
Bergeron said once an area enters the program, a plan of action is enacted to ensure it stays below the level.
Bergeron said the only state area expected to be noncompliant on July 20 is Baton Rouge and its five-parish area.
Bergeron said citizens can sign up for the DEQ’s EnviroFlash system, which sends out air quality information.