Strict standards for measuring air quality levels have once again led Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division to recommend designating Dawson County a nonattainment zone under the U.S. Clean Air Act.
Dawson County, which has an air quality monitoring unit at Georgia Forestry on Hwy. 53 East near Gober Hill, also fell into the nonattainment zone last April, meaning the county’s air quality exceeds federal mandated levels.
Dawson County Manager Kevin Tanner, who received a letter last month regarding the county’s ozone level, said he plans to object to the recommendation.
“There’s really nothing we can do to remedy this. When winds are prevailing out of Atlanta, there is an overflow of the pollution coming from the south that is detected at forestry’s monitoring station,” he said. “There are really no steps Dawson County can take.”
The Environmental Protection Agency created a new standard for ozone levels in March 2008 by lowering the allowable concentration in the air.
The old standard limit was 86 parts per billion of ground-level ozone concentration, while the new standard allows no more than 76 parts per billion.
Ozone is an unhealthy component of smog, which is generated by both man-made and natural sources, such as gasoline and diesel powered vehicles, factories, solvents, cleaners, pesticides, asphalt, construction and fires.
While thousands of motorists travel along Ga. 400 through the county daily to and from the Atlanta area, Dawson County is not an industrial hub that produces significant pollutants, said Georgia Forestry Chief Ranger Carolyn Sweatman.
Officials say a series of restrictions on industry and transportation could follow if EPA formally designates Dawson County as nonattainable.
Vehicle emission testing, which is currently required in 13 metro-Atlanta counties, is one option.
Tanner said he is not sure what measures EPA would require the county to take if the county receives a formal nonattainment status.
“Again, I’m not sure what the county could do when the pollution is coming from Atlanta,” he said.
EPD is responsible for measuring air pollutant levels throughout the state. When levels are expected to exceed federal air quality limits in the metro Atlanta region,
The Clean Air Campaign e-mails a Smog Alert.
Individuals with respiratory and cardiac problems can experience distress and discomfort breathing, particularly during and on the days following Smog Alerts.
Smog season begins each year on May 1, the same day EPD’s state burn ban begins.
During the summer months in Georgia, the ozone in the air can reach unhealthy levels.
EPD has identified open burning as a significant contributor of the pollutants that form ozone.
“That’s one of the reasons we have a burn ban, to cut down on the ozone in the summer months,” Sweatman said.
The burn ban will remain in effect through Oct. 1, and limits all outdoor burning.
E-mail Michele Hester at firstname.lastname@example.org.