DEQ urges steps to reduce ozone air pollution

Advocate staff photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK -- Michael Vince,senior environmental scientist with DEQ, talks about actions citizens can take to reduce ozone pollution during a news conference Monday announcing May as Air Quality Awareness month.
Advocate staff photo by ARTHUR D. LAUCK -- Michael Vince,senior environmental scientist with DEQ, talks about actions citizens can take to reduce ozone pollution during a news conference Monday announcing May as Air Quality Awareness month.

With the weather warming and the formation of ozone air pollution more likely, the state Department of Environmental Quality is asking people to take steps that can help reduce that pollution.

Ozone forms when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds combine in the air during hot and sunny days. When there is little wind to disperse the formed ozone, the pollution can accumulate and cause health problems, especially for sensitive populations like children.

Ozone formation typically occurs most often between May 1 and Sept. 30, according to DEQ.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency started a program called “Ozone Advance” last year as more stringent ozone standards were being put in place. The program’s objective is to reduce the amount of material in the air that can lead to ozone.

The voluntary program provides support for communities seeking to reduce ozone-causing pollution and helps them in collecting information about their efforts, Michael Vince, DEQ senior environmental scientist said at a news conference Monday to announce May as Air Quality Awareness Month.

This effort to reduce emissions in areas ahead of tougher standards is being done to help keep communities below federal ozone standards levels, he said, “so they can protect themselves and stay in attainment” with the federal standard, Vince said.

Although it’s fairly easy to catalogue pubic agency actions being taken to reduce ozone formation, Vince said, there are a lot of private actions being taken as well that can have an impact. For example, he said, areas that are putting in compressed natural gas fueling stations would likely see reductions in emissions from vehicles that can add to the ozone-forming mix.

“Those things go to reduce emissions,” he said.

The Ozone Advance program helps bring together private and public actions so communities, and the EPA, can have a more complete picture of what is being done to reduce those ozone-causing emissions.

“It takes time for things we do today to affect the monitors,” Vince said referring to the air monitors that measure for ozone pollution around the state.

People can get daily emails about air quality by subscribing to the free EnviroFlash alerts provided by DEQ and EPA. EnviroFlash is available at www.deq.louisiana.gov/enviroflash. Current air quality information is available at www.deq.louisiana.gov/aqinfo.