It's ozone season again and once upon a time that would have been bad news for local residents.
Neither Berkeley nor Jefferson County residents were strangers to the problems associated with this colorless gas, especially when its levels would begin to rise during the summer months.
Ground level ozone pollution the primary ingredient in smog - is formed when emissions from gas-powered vehicles and lawn equipment, industrial and chemical processes as well as some household activities react with heat and sunlight.
And since ozone is readily formulated on hot, sunny days especially when the air is stagnant there were many times during the last decade when local readings rose to the federal Air Quality Index's orange "unhealthy for sensitive groups" designation.
At that level, young children and senior citizens as well as individuals with lung diseases such as asthma are warned against heavy exertion or prolonged exposure outdoors.
Federal Environmental Protection Agency records show that the area experienced 39 ozone alert days between 2001 and 2004.
Records also show 2002 was one of the worst years with higher than desirable ozone levels occurred periodically from June through September.
In fact, there were two, four-day periods when the area's ozone levels refused to drop to a more moderate reading.
Fortunately that's no longer the case a situation that began to improve after area policymakers, citizens and business representatives started addressing the problem collectively.
For example, school buses in Berkeley and Jefferson County were retrofitted to be more environmentally friendly as part of the publicly-funded Clean Air Connection.
Public education efforts aimed at letting individuals know how they can help reduce local ozone levels continue and have also played a part in making a difference.
Local folks really want to know what they can do to help spare the air
This summer has been a success with only two air quality alert days when ozone levels climbed into the unhealthy for sensitive groups (young children, the elderly and folks with respiratory problems).
One alert was issued shortly after the June derecho storm hit, leaving thousands of folks across the state without electricity for days and weeks.
The other was July 7 during an excessively hot/humid period.
While it's not possible to always change these situations, individuals can make a difference when it comes to reducing their ozone footprint.
For additional information, contact the Clean Air Connection at 304-263-1743 or visit us online at www.cleanairconnection.org. to receive daily ozone level updates.