Ozone levels prompt calls for caution Air quality remains healthy, but officials seek help from public

'A busy week'

Residents, employees asked to reduce use of vehicles, mowers

August 07, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll escaped unhealthy air yesterday but the county is not in the clear yet.

For the rest of the week, the county will follow its Ozone Action Day policy, encouraging its employees and residents to cut back on ground-level ozone producers such as vehicles, boats and lawn mowers.

On June 7, the air quality index in Carroll reached 114 parts per billion, the highest recording in the state this year.

Any reading above 107 ppb is approaching unhealthful. At 125 ppb, air is considered unhealthy, state officials say.

The county originally had planned to reduce its mowing and paving on action days, but the spate of rainy weather has wreaked havoc with production schedules.

All fueling took place in the early morning, with no refueling scheduled until early today, and road crews were provided with plenty of water and given extra breaks. But the county could not curtail hours, said Cindy Parr, communications manager.

"We have lost so much time because of rainfall that we are two months behind on paving and we are receiving complaints about mowing," said Parr.

With hot, hazy and humid conditions persisting throughout the week, the Maryland Department of the Environment is forecasting a week of Code Orange ozone alerts, which signal air quality approaching unhealthy levels.

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

Analysts expected yesterday that ground-level ozone would reach an 89 on the pollutant standard index, a rating based on counts of 107 ppb to 124 ppb.

None of the 16 monitoring stations in the state recorded any higher than the 75, posted at 3 p.m. in Harford County.

At 3 p.m., the monitor station in South Carroll recorded a 70 air quality rating, which had climbed steadily from 18 at 9 a.m.

Within 90 minutes, the Carroll rating had dropped to 69, but was still the highest in the state.

Although Carroll's ratings trailed Harford County most of yesterday, monitoring stations in both counties recorded the highest levels of pollution in the state, said Caryn Coyle, state assistant director of air quality.

"We are expecting a busy week," said Coyle. "Little wind, no cloud cover and the sun shining straight down can all combine to make bad air pollution."

But air quality has improved tremendously in the metropolitan area since 1988, when it exceeded healthy levels by 15 times.

"So far this year, we have not had a single exceedant of unhealthful air quality," said Daniel J. Meszler, a consultant to the Baltimore Alliance for Clean Air Progress.

"This summer, it is the weather. Effective controls have also led to reductions in ozone emissions."

Officials hope to avoid a repeat of last summer's record 126 ppb, which occurred on Aug. 2.

They are asking residents to use car pools, refrain from using gas-powered lawn equipment and oil-based paints, and to refuel after dusk.

Pub Date: 8/07/96

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