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Great Lakes Article:

Ozone days underscore air quality failures

Heat pushes readings above EPA standards

By WAYNE FALDA
Southbend Tribune
06/28/2002

Five Ozone Action Days, five violations of the Clean Air Act.

Every Ozone Action Day called by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management from Wednesday to Sunday has been marked by a violation of the federal limit for ground-level ozone.

When IDEM personnel examine air readings taken by local air monitors Monday and today, it is conceivable that St. Joseph and Elkhart counties will have recorded seven straight violations.

Ozone, or smog, is a highly reactive form of oxygen that can irritate lung tissue.

The formation of ozone really gets cooking on hot steamy days when the strong sun causes a complex chemical reaction between volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxide. Both are emitted in motor vehicle exhaust.

In addition, nitrogen oxides are released from the smokestacks of coal-burning power plants. Volatile organic compounds are also emitted from factory paint-spraying operations, two-stroke engines like lawn mowers, or from the drying of solvents and paints.

The Environmental Protection Agency tightened its ozone regulations in 1997 after years of campaigning by the American Lung Association, in particular, that ozone aggravated respiratory ailments worse than what was commonly believed.

Ozone, the association said, contributes to tens of thousands of premature deaths in the United States each year, especially among asthmatics and those suffering from emphysema.

Under the new rules, a violation occurs when ozone levels average 85 parts per billion during any eight-hour span.

Air monitors in South Bend began detecting violations Wednesday when the ozone average came to 90 ppb, followed by a reading of 92 ppb on Thursday, 96 ppb on Friday, 102 ppb on Saturday, and 100 ppb on Sunday.

Readings taken by an air monitor in Bristol showed that Elkhart reached an average of 88 ppb on Thursday, 103 ppb on Saturday and 102 ppb on Sunday.

"It's a concern to have that many days in a row," said IDEM spokeswoman Courtney Kasinger.

Mid to late afternoon is when the hourly values peak, she said.

Daytime highs have been reaching the low 90s during that time period. Today will be no different.

There is only a slight chance of afternoon thunderstorms today and a 50/50 chance tomorrow night.

A slight cool-off is expected on Thursday, when temperatures should moderate into the lower 80s.

The American Lung Association gave St. Joseph and LaPorte counties an F grade in its "State of the Air: 2002" report, while it gave Elkhart County a B based on ozone levels between 1998 and 2000.

On Ozone Action Days, public transportation rides are free on buses operated by Transpo, The Bus and the Concord bus in Elkhart County.

Residents are asked to avoid unnecessary auto trips or using gasoline-powered motors.

IDEM's Smog Watch Web site can be found at: www.state.in.us/idem/oam/smog.

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