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EPA designates “nonattainment” areas for fine particle air pollution

Release Date: 10/08/2009
Contact Information: Krishna Viswanathan, EPA Air, Waste & Toxics Program, (206) 553-2684, viswanathan.krishna@epa.gov Tony Brown, EPA Public Affairs, (206) 553-1203, brown.anthony@epa.gov

Includes areas in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington

(Seattle, Wash. - October 8, 2009) Today EPA designated 31 areas across the country as “nonattainment” for fine particle air pollution known as PM2.5. EPA based the designations on the most recent set of air quality monitoring data from 2006 to 2008.

EPA strengthened the 24-hour fine particle standard in 2006 to protect public health from harmful levels of PM2.5.
Five of these “nonattainment areas” are in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska:

  • Part of the Fairbanks North Star Borough, AK (Fairbanks);
  • Part of Franklin County, ID (Franklin);
  • Part of Klamath County, OR (Klamath Falls)
  • Part of Lane County, OR (Oakridge),
  • Part of Pierce County, Washington (Tacoma)

According to Rick Albright, head of EPA’s air quality program in Seattle, these communities will need to develop their plans for reducing pollution by 2012 and demonstrate that they are meeting federal standards and are in “attainment” by fall of 2014.

“Research shows that fine particle pollution damages our lungs and compromises public health,” Albright said. “EPA is committed to assisting these communities so that they can get to work immediately to target the sources of pollution and safeguard public health.”

In the Northwest and Alaska, counties may cover large geographic areas while sources of particle pollution are often localized, so nonattainment areas tend to cover small parts rather than whole counties.

The five nonattainment areas in the Northwest and Alaska all have more air pollution problems in the winter from home heating sources including older wood stoves and oil furnaces. In addition, during stagnant weather conditions with cold temperatures and limited air movement, pollution may “pool” in an area rather than dissipate. In some areas, vehicles and industrial sources also contribute to high wintertime particulate matter levels.

EPA also announced that two areas - Juneau, AK and Pinehurst, ID – which were formerly designated as “nonattainment” are now considered in attainment of the standards, based on the latest data.
In the case of Juneau, the State of Alaska provided data indicating that the area did not violate the daily standards. Air quality officials believe that improvement in Juneau was due in large part to an updated wood burning advisory program and diligent local government enforcement efforts. Similarly, the State of Idaho provided data for the Pinehurst area from the same period revealing that it did not violate the daily standards.
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For more information about PM2.5 designations refer to http://www.epa.gov/pmdesignations

More information on the designations: http://www.epa.gov/pmdesignations/2006standards/index.htm

For more details about PM2.5, see EPA HQ’s national news release: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/6424ac1caa800aab85257359003f5337/ee3e8db020a8b8ed85257649005b266c!OpenDocument

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