St. Louis Metro Area Identified as Pollution Nonattainment Area
EPA has notified the Missouri Department of Natural Resources that the Agency intends to modify the state’s recommendation for designating areas as nonattainment for short-term fine-particle pollution. Missouri DNR had proposed that the entire state be designated in attainment.
The intended modification area would designate the City of St. Louis and the counties of St. Louis, St. Charles, Jefferson and Franklin as nonattainment for the 24-hour fine particle National Ambient Air Quality Standard. There are also counties in the Illinois portion of St. Louis that are included in the nonattainment area. After reviewing the recommendation and technical information provided by the state, EPA believes that areas in Missouri contribute to violations of standards in the Illinois portion of the St. Louis area. This mirrors the nonattainment area established in 2004 for the annual standard and continues the state and local efforts to reduce fine particle pollution in the St. Louis metropolitan area.
The letter to the state begins a 120-day period in which the state can provide comment. States will have the opportunity to submit new information and analyses to support an alternative designation or boundary recommendation by October 20, 2008. The public will also have opportunity to comment on EPA’s intended action. The Clean Air Act requires that EPA notify the states at least 120 days prior to modifying state recommendations. The act also requires that EPA finalize the designations by December 18, 2008.
States with nonattainment designations are required by the Clean Air Act to identify control strategies to reduce fine particle pollution in these areas. Examples of control measures that may be required include: stricter controls on industrial facilities, stricter air permits, and transportation conformity (which ensures transportation planning does not interfere with air quality goals).
Fine-particle pollution represents one of the most significant barriers to clean air facing our nation today. Health studies link these tiny particles – about 1/30th the diameter of a human hair – to serious human health problems including aggravated asthma, increased respiratory symptoms like coughing and difficult or painful breathing, chronic bronchitis, decreased lung function, and even premature death in people with heart and lung disease. An area must have monitored readings below 35 micrograms per cubic meter of fine particle pollution (or PM2.5) within a three-year average.
Fine particle pollution can remain suspended in the air for long periods of time and create public health problems far away from emission sources. Reducing levels of fine-particle (PM2.5) pollution is an important part of our nation’s commitment to clean, healthy air.
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