New ozone requirements will mean big changes
SEPTEMBER 9, 2010 8:35 p.m. (0)
In 2008 EPA set the primary acceptable ozone level at 0.075 parts per million (PPM). This year they are expected to lower that limit to between 0.060 to 0.070 PPM.
Data from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control shows Spartanburg County was significantly out of compliance with the existing ozone standard in the Aug. 13 and 14 time period with the ozone monitor in the northern part of the county recording a level of more than 0.080 PPM.
EPA reports that for every dollar spent reducing ozone levels there is a $13 dollar savings in health care costs. At an ozone standard of 0.065 PPM, EPA estimates a savings of 270,000 work loss days; 1.1 million school loss days; and 11,000 emergency room visits by people sensitive to ozone nationwide.
Those with breathing problems, asthmatics, heart disease patients and people suffering from things like bronchitis and emphysema are the most sensitive to ozone.
“It is going to cost something to get the kinds of health benefits lowering the ozone standard will bring,” said Tom Foster, a Spartanburg County councilman representing District 6.
Foster is a supervisor with Williams Gas Pipeline/Transcontinental Gas in Spartanburg. His company invested about $30 million recently to upgrade equipment and reduce emissions from their local facilities.
“You have to learn to become proactive in these kinds of things. To get out in front of the curve,” he said, citing the example of the county’s recent installation of filter systems on some of its diesel trucks to reduce particulate emissions.
Foster predicted there will be new difficulties in industrial recruitment due to the lowered ozone standard and with things like getting federal highway dollars for projects if the county remains out of compliance for a significant period. EPA typically allows out of compliance areas a grace period to lower their ozone levels before taking on significant sanctions.
Ozone is a naturally occurring form of oxygen that is made up of three oxygen atoms. High in the atmosphere it makes life itself possible on earth by blocking most of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.
At ground level, however, ozone’s destructive tendencies start to show. It is detrimental to lung tissues, in particular, but will also burn sensitive plants, EPA said.
Most people can detect about 0.01 PPM of ozone in the air because of the gas’ distinctive sharp odor, which is similar to chlorine bleach. Exposure at levels of 0.1 to 1 PPM produces headaches, burning eyes and respiratory distress. Even low concentrations can be very destructive to organic materials, latex and plastics, EPA said.
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