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EPA Designates Idaho’s West Silver Valley as being in “Non-Attainment” for Fine Particle Air Pollution

Release Date: 12/19/2014
Contact Information: Mark MacIntyre/EPA-Seattle/206.553.7302/macintyre.mark@epa.gov

State of Idaho has until December, 2021 to demonstrate improvement

(Seattle, WA – December 19, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has taken another step forward today to reduce pollution and protect air quality in Northern Idaho’s West Silver Valley. Late yesterday, the EPA officially finalized nationwide area designations for the 2012 annual PM2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standard. As part of these area designations, the West Silver Valley has been designated a “moderate nonattainment area” because the most recent Fine Particle air pollution data gathered there do not meet the national standard. This action marks the final step in the designation process.

The West Silver Valley nonattainment area includes the areas in and around the Panhandle towns of Pinehurst, Smelterville and Kellogg. This area was determined to include emission sources that contribute to violations of the fine particle standard. The EPA’s decision is based on local air quality monitoring data, analysis of supporting technical information and review of additional information provided during the comment period.

Numerous scientific studies have linked exposure to these tiny particles - approximately 1/30th the size of a human hair - with serious human health problems including premature death in people with heart and lung disease; nonfatal heart attacks; and increased hospital admissions and doctor and emergency room visits for respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

For the next two years, the state will work with the local communities to develop a plan to reduce emissions in the West Silver Valley. The state has until the fall of 2016 to submit a plan to the EPA, and the area will have until December 2021 to demonstrate compliance with the fine particle air quality standard.

With this first phase of the process complete, the planning now begins, led by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. The state agency will continue working closely with the community and EPA throughout both the planning and implementation phases to ensure a smooth transition to improved air quality in the Valley.