Clearer skies over New Hanover County
May 4, 2012By Alison Lee Satake
New Hanover County residents can breathe a bit easier, with the recent announcement that the county’s ozone levels are some of the lowest in the state. That’s according to Tom Mather, spokesman for the North Carolina Division of Air Quality.
The agency reported this week that the Charlotte metropolitan area is the only region to exceed the 75 parts per billion standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2008. That air pollution has earned Charlotte a non-attainment status that can affect new industries coming to the area and federally funded highway projects, Mather said.
Last year, the EPA’s scientific advisory council discussed lowering the ozone emission standard to 60 parts per billion. However, after receiving feedback from businesses and industry that said lowering the standards during the recession would be detrimental, the EPA decided to keep the standard at 75 ppb.
New Hanover County’s ozone levels are currently 62 parts per billion, according to the equation set by the EPA. The county has among the lowest ozone levels in the state, tied with Swain County in the western part of the state.
“Ozone needs heat and sunlight in the absence of rain,” Mather said. The coastal breeze and precipitation impact ozone emissions, he said.
Non-attainment designations can have important implications for industrial growth, development and highways. New industries wishing to locate in non-attainment areas or existing industries planning to expand often need to add more expensive control equipment, which can hamper industrial growth.
States and local governments can face additional restrictions and federal review for highway projects.
In 2010, New Hanover County’s sulfur dioxide emissions exceeded maximum standards. However, the closure of Southern States Chemical dropped the county’s levels within compliance.