Associated Press. U.S. counties that are home to nearly 100 million people appear to flunk federal air standards because of microscopic soot from diesel-burning trucks, power plants and other sources, the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday. [The soot referred to is called PM2.5 -- particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter -- less than one-seventh the width of a human hair.]
The EPA said a preliminary analysis showed that 243 counties in 22 states -- almost all in the eastern third of the nation and in California -- may have to take additional measures to curb pollution to meet the standards by 2010. [EPAs map of non-attainment on the right shows states that pass in green, states that flunk in sooty gray.] The largest concentrations of counties in noncompliance were along the urban corridor from New York City to Washington, D.C., eastern Tennessee, in the Ohio River Valley region and counties surrounding the urban centers of Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis and Atlanta.
The Los Angeles Basin and interior central California also face significant soot air quality problems as does a small corner of northwestern Montana -- one of the few strictly rural areas cited by the EPA. Leavitt said the county had dirty air because of pollution from mining activities near Libby, Mont.
The EPA designations went well beyond a list of counties that states submitted to the agency in May. The governors listed 141 counties with a population of 79 million people as in noncompliance. The EPA added another 102 counties.
More information on the PM2.5 designations are here on the EPA site. Also here is a more detailed, county-by-county PDF map showing the counties the states thought were in non-attainment, and the additions the EPA made. Thumbnail image to the right.
Correcting this will be expensive.
Sam Atwood, spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which regulates air quality in the Los Angeles area, said local officials would need lots of help from the state and federal government to meet the standards by 2015. The district only has the authority to regulate stationary air sources, not the vehicles, planes and ships responsible for much of the pollution.
The federal government plans to spend about $10 million this year and $100 million a year for the next five years to help polluters reduce their emissions of diesel, one of the main sources of the particles, Haber said. The money would be spent on programs to retrofit older vehicles or remove them from the road, and on reducing emissions from other sources. AP.
But not as expensive as not treating the problem.
The fine particle standards were established in 1997, but litigation significantly slowed their implementation. In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the standards and in 2002 all remaining legal challenges were cleared, allowing EPA to put these standards into effect. The implementation of these standards will prevent hundreds of thousands of occurrences of aggravated asthma and thousands of premature deaths every year. EPA.