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EPA PROPOSES RENO AIR QUALITY REDESIGNATION; RATING WOULD MOVE FROM MODERATE TO SERIOUS

Release Date: 11/15/2000
Contact Information: Lisa Fasano, U.S. EPA, (415) 744-1587

     SAN FRANCISCO - The US Environmental Protection Agency today proposed to change the Reno-Washoe County air quality rating from moderate to serious nonattainment of the federal health standard for airborne dust.

     The law required the EPA to downgrade the air quality rating for particulate matter after the recorded violations in 1994.  Although the area's air quality improved during the 1995-1998 time frame, violations occurred again in 1999.   The public interest group, EarthJustice, has filed a lawsuit against the EPA for failure to reclassify nonattainment areas with continuing violations across the country; Washoe County is one of the areas named.

     "The reclassification is a procedural step," said Julia Barrow, EPA air planning office chief for the Pacific Southwest.  "We have been talking about how to fix what caused the recorded violations with the Washoe County Air Quality Management District and are very encouraged that it is already working on new measures."
   
     Washoe County violated federal air quality standards for particulate matter, or dust, in 1999 at two county air monitors.  Those violations, along with recorded violations in 1992-1994, require the EPA's action will initiate more stringent measures to improve air quality.  

     "We had measured violations of the federal standard for particulate matter and expected the EPA to respond accordingly," said Andrew Goodrich, Director Washoe County AQMD.  "De- icing operations in the winter of 1999 caused the most recent violations and we are working on new measures that will prevent the problem in the future."

     A serious nonattainment rating requires the county to install measures that will reduce the amount of dust in the air.  The area would then be required to have three consecutive years without any violations.  Once that is achieved the EPA would propose reclassifying the area again as attaining the federal standard.

     The reclassification will be open to public comments for 15 days once it has been posted on the Federal Register.  Written comments on the proposal may be sent to Doris Lo, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9, Air Division, Planning Office (AIR-2) 75 Hawthorne Street, San Francisco, California 94105.

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