Virginia ground-level ozone pollution declines: Report
The Virginia DEQ has released its initial ozone monitoring results for 2018. Monitoring for ground-level ozone in Virginia, and in much of the country, runs from May 1 through Oct. 31. Data collected from DEQ’s 21 ozone monitoring stations across the state indicate Virginia’s air quality continues to improve.
Levels of fine particulate pollution have decreased by more than 40 percent and nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide levels have also dropped significantly. Each year, ozone monitoring results are collected and certified by DEQ and then reported to the EPA.
In 2018, Virginia saw only six days when air quality exceeded levels for ground-level ozone (“Code Orange” days). These exceedance levels, color-coded from yellow to maroon according to severity, indicate unhealthy air quality for sensitive groups. Virginia has been trending in a positive direction recently, with only four Code Orange days in 2017. By comparison, Virginia reported more than 100 excessive ozone days in both 1993 and 1998.
“As a result of emission reductions associated with a variety of pollution control programs and positive changes in people’s behavior such as carpooling, air pollution in Virginia has decreased by more than 50 percent over the last 25 years,” said DEQ Air and Renewable Energy Division Director Michael Dowd. “Through our permitting and regulatory programs we are managing a more complex system of solutions to achieve the best air quality in decades. DEQ is focused on encouraging development in the solar field and in deploying electric vehicle technology so these excellent trends in air quality will continue.”
In the upper atmosphere, ozone filters harmful UV rays but at ground level, ozone is considered an air pollutant. Ozone is formed when pollutants emitted by cars and other sources react on hot, sunny days. Ground-level ozone can cause a variety of health problems, as well as damage to plants and building materials. Chemicals that form ozone – nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons (also called volatile organic compounds or VOCs) – are generated by sources such as motor vehicle exhaust, power plants, industrial emissions and solvents. Ozone can travel hundreds of miles from its original source, so that even rural areas with few pollutants can occasionally experience high-ozone levels.
DEQ uses EPA’s color-coded system, known as the Air Quality Index, to issue forecasts and alerts to inform the public when air quality may be unsafe for sensitive populations. See air quality forecasts, hourly ozone values across Virginia, and sign up for ozone alerts by visiting DEQ’s website at www.DEQ.Virginia.gov/Programs/Air/AirQualityForecasting.aspx.
Animated maps are also available from the EPA at https://airnow.gov/.