Dane County Enters Summer Ozone Season
June 20, 2006
Dave Merritt, Project Coordinator
Ozone Air Quality Rating: “Good” 87% of Summer Days in 2005
DNR Launches New “Air Quality Watch”
and “Air Quality Advisory” Program
Hot weather is back and so is ozone season.
For the third consecutive year, the Dane County Clean Air Coalition (CAC) will call a “Clean Air Action Day” when air pollution is forecast to reach unhealthy levels for ground-level ozone. Forecasts are announced a day in advance.
“It is encouraging news that in 2005, four Clean Air Action Days were called, but on none of the days did measured Dane County ozone levels exceed the health standard,” said Dave Merritt, CAC project coordinator. “However, as Dane County continues to grow, preventative actions must be taken to ensure that our air remains healthy into the future.”
Dane County residents last year experienced “good” air quality on 87% of all summer days monitored for ozone and “moderate” air quality on 13% of the days, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) records show. No “unhealthy” days were recorded for ozone pollution. The DNR monitors ozone levels every hour of every day during the summer months.
While ozone in the upper levels of the atmosphere serves a useful purpose by helping to reduce the effect of ultraviolet rays, ground-level ozone is a health hazard. A Clean Air Action Day declaration warns people ground-level ozone could reach an unhealthy level especially for children, older adults, people with asthma and adults engaged in vigorous outdoor activities. Ground-level ozone is a harmful, colorless gas that forms on hot, sunny days when there is little or no wind.
During a Clean Air Action Day, government agencies, businesses and citizens will be asked to do their share for cleaner air and the health of local residents by voluntarily engaging in ozone-reducing activities. CAC organizations will activate their Clean Air Action Day response plans to help protect air quality.
Cars and trucks produce roughly 50 percent of the ozone pollution in Dane County. Madison Metro will again this year provide free bus service on the first five Clean Air Action Days to encourage people to leave their cars at home.
The DNR has revised its system for delivering Air Quality Watches and Advisories when pollution levels are elevated. The improved program is the result of a cooperative effort involving the public, community organizations, the media and other state and federal agencies.
The DNR will issue an Air Quality Watch when pollutant levels for either ozone or particle pollution are forecast to be in the orange Air Quality Index range for the following day. The orange range on the index indicates that pollutant levels are considered unhealthy for individuals in sensitive groups, including those with heart or lung disease, asthma, older adults and children.
A watch will be issued by noon the day before these levels are expected using the National Weather Service network and the DNR’s Advisory Listserv, Air Quality Hotline and Internet pages. Messages will also be distributed over the Department of Health and Family Services Health Alert Network (HAN). The watch message will detail the pollutant of concern, geographic area affected and timeframe covered by the watch, health messages and actions the public can take. If pollutant levels are at or expected to reach the orange level soon, an Air Quality Advisory will be issued using the NWS network, the Listserv, Hotline and the Internet.
Important note: A Dane County Clean Air Action Day will be called just for an ozone-related Air Quality Watch. Fine particle air pollution is a growing concern and the CAC is working to develop fine particle action plans for future implementation.
On a Clean Air Action Day, examples of actions coalition-member organizations will take include:
-- alert employees via e-mail to encourage them to car pool, bus, bike, or walk to work
-- place alert messages on overhead changeable street signs
-- avoid refueling fleet vehicles until after 6 p.m. and limit unnecessary idling
-- postpone mowing and maintenance painting whenever possible
-- conserve energy by reducing building lighting and air conditioning
Other actions that citizens can take on a Clean Air Action Day to reduce the likelihood of ozone formation include:
-- Carpool, walk, ride the bus or bike to work
-- Reschedule or delay lawn mowing using gas-powered equipment until after 6 p.m.
-- Refuel your car after 6 p.m., don’t overfill or top-off the tank and avoid idling
-- Reduce the use of air conditioning and lighting
Air Quality Watches and Advisories will be posted on the main DNR internet page, http://dnr.wi.gov/, as soon as they are issued. The Air Quality Hotline is 1-866-DAILY AIR (1-866-324-5924) and will be updated when watches or advisories are issued. To sign up for the DNR listserv and receive watches or advisories by e-mail, go to http://dnr.wi.gov/org/aw/air/health/listserv.html.
For more information on Clean Air Action Days, visit the Dane County Clean Air Coalition website at www.cleanairdane.org.
# # #