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EPA designates seven new fine particle pollution “nonattainment” areas in Pacific Northwest and Alaska

Release Date: 12/23/2008
Contact Information: Krishna Viswanathan, 206-553-2684, viswanathan.krishna@epa.gov, or Mark MacIntyre, 206-553-7302(desk) or 206-369-7999(cell), macintyre.mark@epa.gov

Regional Administrator: “Protecting children and the elderly from fine particle pollution is EPA’s ultimate goal.”

(Seattle, Washington – December 22, 2008) Today, EPA Regional Administrator, Elin D. Miller, notified the Governors of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington and Puyallup Tribal leaders that certain areas in their states and tribal lands do not meet the agency’s daily standards for fine particle pollution, also known as fine particulate matter, or PM 2.5.

“Reducing and eliminating fine particle pollution is a top public health priority for EPA,” said Elin D. Miller, EPA’s Northwest Regional Administrator in Seattle. “Fine particles threaten the health of society’s most vulnerable: small children and the elderly. Today, we’ve identified seven new areas that need to build stronger partnerships and work harder to protect their people from the adverse health effects of air pollution.”

Prior to today’s designation, EPA closely reviewed recommendations from states and tribes along with public comment before making its decision to designate 211 counties and parts of counties across the nation as not meeting EPA’s PM 2.5 standards. Seven of these areas are within EPA’s Region 10 (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon & Washington).

These areas, called “nonattainment areas”*, include counties with monitors showing violation of the standards, as well as nearby areas that contribute to that violation. In the Northwest and Alaska, counties frequently cover large areas and pollution sources contributing to fine particle pollution are often localized, so nonattainment areas tend to cover small parts rather than whole counties.

Affected states and tribes will be required to take steps to reduce the pollution that forms these particles. The vast majority of U.S. counties and tribal lands will not have to take additional steps to meet these standards, but will need to continue working to maintain clean air. (*LIST OF NEWLY-DESIGNATED AREAS IN AK, ID, OR & WA FOLLOWS)

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 11 percent from 2000 to 2007.

Fine particles can either be emitted directly, or they can form in the atmosphere from reactions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Exposure to fine particle pollution can cause serious health problems, ranging from increased hospital admissions and doctor and emergency department visits for respiratory and cardiovascular disease, to heart attacks and to premature death.

The newly-designated areas in The Pacific Northwest and Alaska:

ALASKA( Juneau & Fairbanks)

Juneau

A small portion of the City and Borough of Juneau, the Mendenhall Valley, is being designated as a PM2.5 nonattainment area. This area coincides fairly well with the existing PM10 nonattainment boundary for Juneau. This is an area that was designated based on 2005-2007 data from the Mendenhall Valley PM2.5 monitor.

Based on EPA’s analysis, local heating emissions from woodstoves and fireplaces contribute to the violations of the standard during stable weather events associated with strong temperature inversions.

These emissions and the related effects are limited to the Mendenhall Valley as they are trapped there due to temperature inversions and local topography. The rest of the county is very sparsely populated with no sources that can contribute to a violation of the PM2.5 standard at the Mendenhall Valley monitor.

The City and Borough of Juneau has recently updated its woodstove curtailment regulations to the new PM2.5 standard and has been using it this winter for local woodstove curtailment programs.

Fairbanks

A small portion of the Fairbanks North Star Borough, including the City of Fairbanks and the City of North Pole, is being designated as a PM2.5 nonattainment area. The designation is based on the 2005-2007 data from the Fairbanks PM2.5 monitor.

Based on EPA’s analysis, local heating emissions from woodstoves, distillate oil, industrial sources and mobile emissions contribute to primary and secondarily formed PM2.5 that violate the standard during stable weather events associated with extremely strong temperature inversions.

These emissions and the related effects are limited to the City of Fairbanks, the City of North Pole, and nearby populated areas. The rest of the county is very sparsely populated with no sources that can contribute to a violation of the PM2.5 standard at the Fairbanks monitor.

Information submitted by the state of Alaska and the Department of Defense establishes that activity and emissions in large military reservations to the South and East of the metropolitan areas, and the Eielson Air Force Base, do not contribute to the standard violations.

IDAHO (Franklin County, Shoshone County)

Franklin County (Franklin)

A portion of Franklin County is being designated as a PM2.5 nonattainment area. This area is a two-state, two-region nonattainment area along with the State of Utah and EPA Region 8. The area is named the Cache Valley PM2.5 Nonattainment Area. The designation is based on 2005-2007 data from the Logan, Utah and the Franklin, Idaho PM2.5 monitors.

Based on our analysis, local heating emissions from woodstoves, and emissions from agricultural activities, and mobile emissions contribute to primary and secondarily formed PM2.5 that violate the standard during stable weather events associated with extremely strong inversions.

These emissions and the related effects are limited to the Cache Valley, as they are trapped there due to temperature inversions, low wind, and local topography. The rest of the county is very sparsely populated with no sources that can contribute to a violation of the PM2.5 standard at the Franklin monitor.

Shoshone County, ID (Pinehurst)

A portion of Shoshone County (city of Pinehurst and surrounding areas) is being designated as a PM2.5 nonattainment area. The designation is based on 2005-2007 data from the Pinehurst, ID PM2.5 monitor.

Based on EPA’s analysis, local heating emissions from woodstoves contribute to primary PM2.5 that violates the standard during stable weather events associated with strong inversions. These emissions and the related effects are limited to the City of Pinehurst airshed, as they are trapped there due to temperature inversions, low wind and local topography.

The rest of the county is very sparsely populated with no sources that can contribute to a violation of the PM2.5 standard at the Pinehurst monitor.

OREGON (Klamath County & Lane County)

Klamath County

A portion of Klamath County is being designated nonattainment for the revised 2006 PM2.5 NAAQS based on 2005-2007 data from the Klamath Falls PM2.5 monitor.

EPA is designating the area comprised of the modified Air Quality Zone (AQZ) in Klamath Falls as the nonattainment area. The AQZ contains the areas that violate the PM2.5 NAAQS, as well as areas with sources that contribute to those violations.

Technical analysis by both the State & EPA indicates that residential home heating, using wood burning appliances, is the main contributor to the area’s fine particle pollution.

Oakridge

A portion of Lane County is being designated nonattainment for the revised 2006 PM2.5 NAAQS based on 2005-2007 data from the Oakridge PM2.5 monitor.

EPA designated an area the includes the Oakridge Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) and the city of Westfir and surrounding populated areas. EPA's designated boundary includes an area that covers the mountain ridges to include the valleys in which Oakridge and Westfir are located.

EPA’s technical analysis points to residential home heating using wood burning appliances as being the main contributors to fine particle pollution in this area.

WASHINGTON (Wapato Hills/-Puyallup River Valley/Tacoma)

Wapato Hills/Puyallup River (Pierce County)

EPA is designating the Wapato Hills Puyallup River Valley (Tacoma) area as nonattainment for the 24-hour PM2.5 standard on December 18th 2008.

EPA’s technical analysis found that local sources, dominated by woodstove and fireplace emissions, cause and contribute to the violations captured at a at the monitor in a residential area southwest of Tacoma ( at 7802 South L Street at the Peterson School). Other local sources also contribute to the violations (particularly mobile sources and diesel trucks). These violations occur during the winter when temperature inversions trap emissions and result in stagnant air.

The Puyallup Reservation is included in the boundary of the nonattainment area. EPA will continue to work with the Tribe through the nonattainment area planning process to help ensure healthy air quality on Puyallup tribal lands.

EPA is supportive of early actions that the State of Washington and Puget Sound Clean Air Agency have taken to reduce PM levels in the area. Two major efforts are:

  • A woodstove change out program which is an effort to replace old inefficient woodstoves with new, efficient models:

http://www.pscleanair.org/programs/community/woodstove.replacement/default.aspx and
  • Participation in the NW Ports Clean Air Strategy which aims to reduce diesel and greenhouse gas emissions in the region by achieving early reductions in advance of, and complementary to, applicable regulations. (http://www.maritimeairforum.org/)
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For a full list of the designations and for more information on this action visit: http://www.epa.gov/pmdesignations/2006standards/index.htm.