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Texas ranked among top toxic air polluters

By Naomi Prioleau
March 9, 2013 at 11 p.m.


Last year, the state of Texas was ranked number 10 in the top 20 toxic air states by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In the analysis, it shows that Texas emitted nearly 10.5 million pounds of harmful chemicals, accounting for 25 percent of state pollution and around three percent of toxic pollution from all U.S. power plants. The state ranked first in industrial mercury air pollution.

Neil Carman, Clean Air Program Director for the Texas Sierra Club, said he wasn't surprised by the ranking.

"Texas has always ranked high, so this is nothing new," he said. "Number 10 is quite frankly an honest ranking for Texas; my only surprise is that it isn't higher at number one or number five or number six."

The new ozone standard implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2008 is 75 parts per billion. Parts per billion refers to 75 parts of ozone out of one billion parts of air. Anything above 75 ppb is harmful to the air and can cause a city to be considered "nonattainment.

For a city to have "nonattainment" in their ozone levels, they can lose federal money for highways, and the Longview, Tyler, Marshall area has been bordering on "nonattainment" for the past three years, but hasn't received any consequences by the EPA.

"The area has been having a problem," Carman said. "I don't know why the EPA has excluded the area; there are some issues in East Texas. Northeast Texas barely meets the new ozone standard of 75 parts per billion."

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality measured that over a three year average, the Longview, Tyler, Marshall area was above the 75 ppb ozone standard by four ppb. Last year, there were six bad days of air. Carman said reducing the power plants in the area and having local officials taking part in improving air quality could help.

"Reduce smog and ozone forming air pollution from industrial plants like the Pirkey Coal Plant and other plants and vehicles," he said. "In 2012, the LTM had six bad air days above the 75 ppb ozone standard. Two days were in June and four in August."

Julie Burnfield, Environmental Services & Economic Development Specialist at the East Texas Council of Government, said it was important for the county and the state to stay in the "attainment" zone for ozone for the EPA.

"Our next meeting is in April and findings will be presented about information with the TECQ ozone standards," Ms. Burnfield said. "What we're trying to do is we're trying to get in attainment with TECQ's standards and get those readings to improve air quality."

She also said to keep the air quality in Harrison County clean; ETCOG and the Northeast Texas Air Care will begin releasing public service announcements during ozone season, which is from July to September.

"We will have a bunch of PSA's during ozone season because we really have to take care of our air," she said.

Some tips for ozone season are carpooling, using conference calls to avoid company travel and using paint brushes instead of sprays to cut down on fumes. For more information and tips on air quality and ozone season go to www.netac.org.

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