Air quality for month is area's worst Ozone level reached peak reading June 7, has dropped slightly

Behavior changes urged

Officials promote 'common sense' steps to reduce levels

June 18, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll County registered one of the highest ground-level ozone readings in the state June 7 and has averaged the poorest air quality in Maryland this month.

"Generally, Carroll County is one of our lower stations," said Chuck Rearick, a meteorologist with the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Sunday, levels in Carroll reached 104 parts per billion (ppb), down slightly from 114 ppb on June 7, the highest recording this month. A reading of 107 ppb is approaching unhealthful air; at 125 ppb, the air is considered unhealthful. On Aug. 2, Carroll's level reached 126 ppb, and officials want to avoid a repeat this summer.

Ground-level ozone is not the same as the ozone in the atmosphere that shields the Earth from harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. Rather, it is an invisible, odorless gas. The worst air pollutant in the metropolitan area, it can burn the lungs.

Airborne sources such as auto emissions create ground-level ozone, which is directly related to reduced crop yields and pollution of the Chesapeake Bay.

"This stuff won't rise and plug the gap in the ozone layer," said Barbara Morgan, communications manager for the Baltimore Metropolitan Council. "It forms from emissions all over, some of it transported from the Ohio Valley, some from our own emissions."

A monitoring station at South Carroll High School and 15 others in the state track the movement of ozone and make possible the daily forecasts of ozone levels, now a regular part of summer weather broadcasts. The stations read air quality every two minutes.

Wind patterns push the ozone plume -- a cloud of polluted air -- from metropolitan to rural areas. Winds from the south often lead to high ozone levels in Carroll.

"But this is a regional problem, and it is hard to say who is the primary culprit," said Tad Aburn, manager of the state Department of the Environment's air quality program. "Lawn mowers and boats create more emissions that all the emissions combined from the big industrial plants."

To rid the area of pollution, "we need to change our behavior," Morgan told county and town officials yesterday. "Individuals need to start thinking about changes they can make."

Among the changes are reducing use of lawn mowers and powerboats, keeping vehicles well tuned and refueling after dusk.

State officials used the quarterly meeting of mayors to tout ENDZONE, a business-government partnership to end ground-level ozone, and asked for participation in Ozone Action Days. "New fuels and emissions-inspection programs are helping, but there is only so far regulatory approaches can go," Aburn said. "We are promoting voluntary actions, simple common sense things like cutting back on highway mowing and use of herbicides."

Ozone Action Days will be pegged to the weather, said Maggie MacPherson, county information officer. The day before an alert, the Department of the Environment will notify the county, which will relay information to the towns. Until air quality improves, employees will switch from mowing, paving and painting projects to indoor jobs.

"Employees will still be working, but bureau chiefs will make a shift in the mode of operations," MacPherson said.

Air-conditioned senior centers will extend hours to dusk for elderly residents, who particularly are susceptible to air quality changes.

Industry has done its share to improve the air, and individuals must help, said Max Bair, administrative assistant to the Board of County Commissioners.

"The condition is creating a health situation for some and has an impact on economic development," he said. "We cannot build roads and expand until we get this condition under control."

Pub Date: 6/18/96

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