Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization
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Air Quality Update

Ozone Season is Upon Us

For the past year, the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) has been monitoring the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) activities related to revisions to the ozone standard. On October 1, 2015, the EPA announced a new 70 parts per billion (ppb) national ozone standard to limit smog-forming pollution. The new standard is a lower (and more stringent) from the previous standard of 75 ppb, but at the high end of a range that the EPA identified last fall. In accordance with the federal Clean Air Act, when the EPA makes a determination that a region's ozone levels are too high (what it calls “non-attainment”), the MPO must develop and execute a plan that addresses all transportation related sources contributing to ozone and offer transportation control solutions to reduce overall emissions.

Recently, rising levels of ozone pushed the three-year average at the Camp Bullis regulatory monitor, one of three in Bexar County that regulators use to gauge whether the region meets air quality standards, to 71 parts per billion, slightly above the new EPA threshold.  As a result, our region is poised to be designated as “non-attainment” by the EPA by October 2017. This designation would mean implementation of federal regulations requiring expensive limitations on (and retrofits to) the area’s biggest emitters of air pollution. For example, new pollution-control equipment likely would be required on cars, chemical plants, and manufacturing facilities.

Ozone season for our region began April 1st and continues through October 31st. Regardless of what we do from this point forward, ground-level ozone is going to be a continuing challenge for our region, especially as we continue to grow.  Every person in our community is going to have a role to play in addressing the ozone problem. Our role is to continue to work in cooperation with federal, state, and local partners to ensure that air quality requirements are at the forefront of planning decisions. 

Why is Ground Level Ozone Dangerous?

Ground level ozone, more commonly known as smog, is the brown haze that rests upon the region on hot, sunny days. Ozone forms when certain pollutants mix with sunlight. Ozone formation is most likely during the months of April, May, June, July, August, September and October, when heat and sunlight are at their hottest and brightest in the region. In high ozone conditions, people can experience a number of different health problems, including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion. People with lung disease, children, older adults, and people who are active outdoors may be particularly sensitive to ozone.

What Should I Do When an “Air Quality Health Alert” is Announced?

It is important to remember that no one entity, working alone, can address the impacts of ozone. Everyone can help reduce ground-level ozone pollution. Here are some ways that you can do your part: