31 Areas Do Not Meet PM 2.5 Standards
EPA's nonattainment map. Click here or on image to enlarge.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is designating 31 areas in 18 states as not meeting the agency's daily standards for fine particle air pollution (PM 2.5), or particulate matter. These areas, made up of 120 full or partial counties, were designated as "nonattainment" because their air quality monitoring data showed that they did not meet the agency's health-based standards.
Counties in California, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania seem to be particularly affected. The good news is that 91 U.S. counties that were identified as nonattainment in December 2008 are now meeting the standards.
According to Rick Albright, head of EPA's air quality program in Seattle, these communities will need to develop their plans for reducing pollution by 2012 and demonstrate that they are meeting federal standards and are in "attainment" by fall of 2014.
The five nonattainment areas in the Northwest (Idaho, Oregon, Washington) and Alaska all have more air pollution problems in the winter from home heating sources including older wood stoves and oil furnaces. In addition, during stagnant weather conditions with cold temperatures and limited air movement, pollution may "pool" in an area rather than dissipate. In some areas, vehicles and industrial sources also contribute to high wintertime particulate matter levels.
EPA also announced that Juneau, Alaska and Pinehurst, Idaho, which were formerly designated as nonattainment, are now considered in attainment of the standards, based on the latest data.
In Region 5, EPA said Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota counties meet the standard. The agency notified the governors of Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin that some counties in their states fail to meet the standard:
- Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne counties in Michigan;
- Cuyahoga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage and Summit counties in Ohio;
- Stark and Jefferson counties in W. Va.;
- Milwaukee, Racine and Waukesha counties in Wisconsin.
In December 2008, after closely reviewing recommendations from states and tribes along with public comments, EPA identified attainment and nonattainment areas based on air quality monitoring data from 2005 through 2007. The December 2008 designations were never published in the Federal Register
and have been under review. Because the 2008 air quality data is the most recent, EPA used this data to make final designations.
The new data also showed that four new counties in three states are violating the daily PM 2.5 standards, the annual PM 2.5 standards, or both. EPA will work with these four counties to evaluate air monitoring data and other factors to make final designations by early 2010.
Nonattainment areas include counties with monitors showing violations of the standards and the nearby areas that also contribute to that violation. Affected states and tribes will be required to take steps to reduce the pollution that forms fine particles. The majority of U.S. counties and tribal lands are meeting these standards, but will need to continue working to maintain clean air.
In 2006, EPA strengthened the 24-hour fine particle standards from 65 micrograms per cubic meter to 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air to protect public health. Nationwide, monitored levels of fine particle pollution fell 19 percent from 2000 to 2008. Fine particles can either be emitted directly from power plants, factories, and motor vehicles, particularly diesel trucks and buses, or they can form in the atmosphere from reactions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.