LIMA — Forecasts of hot summer days in the region may be coming with a new “Ozone Action Day” warning attached in order to fight creeping ozone levels.
While Allen County ranked as middle of the pack in the American Lung Association’s latest “State of the Air” report due to the county’s low particle pollution, ozone readings have been on the rise throughout the last few years. At this point, Allen Public Health Director of Environmental Health Bill Kelly said the county is now starting to scrape the ceiling of Environmental Protection Agency standards, and the health department has asked weather forecasters to begin announcing when residents should take action to combat the creation of lung-irritating ground-level ozone, or smog.
“We’re bumping that limit,” Kelly said. “The citizens advisory committee thought it would be a good idea to get some attention.”
The latest season has yet to see the need for action as hot summer days have been sparse, but if past history is any indication, there will be a few on the calendar. From 2015 to 2017, the EPA tracked five ozone action days, but those levels are down from Allen County’s smog spike seen at the end of ’90s, when 35 ozone days per year were the norm. Since that time, Kelly said the EPA has also pushed down compliance standards.
On Ozone Action Days, Kelly encourages residents to hold on refueling their cars until after 6 p.m., park vehicles in the shade where applicable to prevent fuel from evaporating and try to avoid using combustion engines until later in the day.
Created when heat reacts with gases in the air, smog primarily affects children and elderly by irritating the lungs and creating difficulty when breathing.
If the region ends up becoming non-compliant, the EPA can impose more stringent air quality control regulations on the region. Kelly gave examples of requiring vehicle emissions testing when residents apply for a license plate and restricting certain businesses from expanding.
“This is not new for Lima,” Kelly said. “We did these several years ago back when Russ Decker was around, but we’ve been complacent. We were below the limits, and all of sudden, we’re creeping back up. It’s a good thing to do.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.