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It’s spring: Ozone season has arrived

By Staff | May 6, 2011

May 1 marked the beginning of the ozone season in the Eastern Panhandle.

The local air quality program, the Clean Air Connection has been working since 2004 to help reduce ground level ozone in the Eastern Panhandle. Ground level ozone pollution is created by a combination of nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOC) and heat from the sun. The right combination of all three components causes excessive amounts of ozone to be generated which in turn trigger air quality alerts from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Ground level ozone is a major pollutant that affects everyone’s health. Individuals with existing respiratory problems, such as asthma and bronchitis, are directly affected by an increase in ground level ozone pollution. Individuals without existing respiratory problems may develop them with continued exposure to high levels of ground level ozone.

The giant steps towards cleaner air are often made at the federal and state levels. Federal and state laws directed at major polluters make great strides towards cleaning the air. Locally, baby steps have been the norm. Fortunately, with the populations of both Jefferson and Berkeley Counties, we can collectively make some giant steps of our own.

The Air Quality Program focuses on seven control measures.

Three of these control measures are very relevant for the individual: walking/biking, open burning and anti-idling – where most individuals contribute to the problem of ground level ozone pollution and it is also the one area where those same individuals can contribute to the solution.The primary source of NOx and VOCs are cars, trucks and petroleum products.

What is anti-idling? It is the elimination of unnecessary idling. Since the primary source of the components that create ozone comes from cars, eliminating any unnecessary pollutants will help the air quality. We all need to get from one place to another and our car’s engine needs to run to do this. If we can eliminate running the engines unnecessarily when we are not actively engaged in driving, we will contribute to better air quality.

Consider this: A car idling unnecessarily for five minutes every day, will have idled for just over 30 hours over the course of a year. There are approximately 100,000 licensed drivers in Jefferson and Berkeley Counties. If every driver idled their car for five minutes every day, in a year that would equal 3,041,666 hours of unnecessary idling. A car consumes from one quart to one gallon of gasoline for each hour it idles. If a car uses one quart per hour while idling, 760,416 gallons of gasoline would be wasted each year in Jefferson and Berkeley Counties while idling unnecessarily. At $3.89 per gallon, that amounts to $2,958,020 spent on fuel and not one inch of highway was driven. In the simplest of terms, idling gets you nowhere!

We are all in this together. By working together, we can clear the air in the Eastern Panhandle.

Go to www.cleanairconnection.org for more information on this and other ozone related topics.

Mike Ball can be reached at 304-263-1743 x3602 and at mball@region9wv.com.