Ozone levels have exceeded federal standards
25 days, compared with 11 in '01.
By Tammy Webber
September 11, 2002
Richard Skok says he doesn't need official
warnings to know when the air is unhealthy. He can feel
it in his lungs.
"I get more tired and notice it's not as easy
to breathe," said Skok, an avid golfer who suffers from
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
"It was worse this summer, especially when
there wasn't any wind to blow the pollution away," he
In fact, air quality in the Indianapolis area
this year has been the worst in more than a decade, as
an unusually long string of hot, sunny days combined with
pollution from cars, factories and other sources to produce
the unhealthy brew, city officials said.
The area exceeded the stricter federal ozone
standard 25 days through Tuesday, compared with 11 days
all of last year.
While that number is not unheard of -- 23
days exceeded the standard in 1998 -- the ozone levels
were higher this year, said Rick Martin, planning manager
for the Department of Public Works' office of environmental
Standards tightened in 1997 require ozone
levels to average less than 0.08 parts per million over
an eight-hour period.
On June 21, the city measured its highest
ozone level ever -- 0.142 parts per million for one hour,
well above the old federal limit of 0.120 ppm for one
hour and the highest reading since the hot, dry summer
of 1988, Martin said.
Although the statistics don't necessarily
mean more toxins are being emitted, they underscore the
need to reduce air pollution, officials said.
The nine-county Indianapolis metropolitan
area does not meet the updated federal ozone standards
-- and only recently came into compliance with the old
And unless local officials devise a plan to
reduce pollution, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
in 2004 could officially designate the Indianapolis area,
and parts of northwest and southern Indiana, as nonattainment
zones, said Patricia Morris, an EPA environmental scientist
who works on Indiana ozone issues. That would automatically
require any new emission source, such as a manufacturing
plant, to obtain pollution "offsets," such as trading
emissions reductions with another company, she said.
Economic development officials say that could
hurt efforts to attract new businesses and jobs.
"It's very important to resolve this," said
Suzanne Vertesch, senior vice president of Indy Partnership,
a regional economic development corporation. "If we have
a manufacturing client looking at locating in this region,
and we have issues with air quality . . . it's a strike
Indianapolis officials hope to avoid federal
intervention by adopting a regional pollution-reduction
plan, said Jodi Perras, deputy director of policy and
planning for the city Department of Public Works.
By the end of this year, officials must send
the EPA a letter saying they want to participate in a
federal program that would allow communities to sign a
compact outlining how they will comply with the air rules
by 2007, which could help them avoid a nonattainment designation.
Perras said she has spoken informally with
municipal, economic development, industry and environment
officials about joining the program. Now they must decide
if they want to participate -- and how to clean the air.
"We've done the easy ones, like Knozone Action
Days, but the harder decisions are ahead of us," Perras
said. "But we need to decide as a local region, not just
The list of possibilities is long -- and not
all would be popular.
The region could expand vehicle emissions
testing, now required only in Lake, Porter, Clark and
Floyd counties. It could require vapor controls at gas
stations, improve public transportation, promote ride-sharing
and encourage businesses to allow more employees to work
from home, Perras said.
John Smith of the American Lung Association
of Indiana would like such a plan to require that drive-through
windows at banks and restaurants be closed during Knozone
Morris said requiring reformulated gasoline,
and tightening regulations on the level of volatile organic
compounds allowed in paints and solvents, might also help.
Officials also could require gas cans that
don't allow vapors to escape, and encourage the use of
electric lawn mowers.
Already, the Indiana Department of Environmental
Management is requiring some industries -- including coal-burning
power plants -- to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions significantly
by May 31, 2004, said Janet McCabe, assistant commissioner
of IDEM's office of air quality.
John Hagen, executive director of the Corporation
for Economic Development in Madison County, believes municipalities
"We're becoming more cognizant of the fact
that this is a regional issue that affects us all," he
said. "Now the general population needs to become more
aware of the whole question.
"But with some foresight here, we may be able
to keep ourselves from having to do things that are drastic.
And we don't want to be in a situation that environmental
concerns hamper our ability to sustain our economy."
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