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Ozone level solutions mulled

June 05, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

BARDANE, W.Va. - Officials in Berkeley and Jefferson counties are considering a wide array of strategies to reduce harmful ozone levels in the counties, such as asking people not to mow grass on certain days and encouraging more bicycle riding and walking instead of relying on automobile travel.

The ideas were proposed in Bardane Wednesday night during a meeting designed to collect public input on the proposals. A similar meeting was held in Martinsburg, W.Va., Tuesday night.

Edgar Mason of Inwood, W.Va., said he does not think much of the ideas.

Mason, who attended Wednesday's meeting, said whether or not he mows his grass "isn't going to matter a pittance compared to everything going on around me."

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Mason was specifically referring to the massive amount of traffic traveling on Interstate 81 in Berkeley County every day.

Vehicle emissions are one source for high ozone levels.

Mason was surprised that even the hair spray his wife uses could be regulated.

"Who's going to police the situation?" Mason said.

Fred Durham, who works for the Division of Air Quality for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said it is true that one person participating in an activity that generates ozone is not enough to aggravate the problem, but 50,000 people across the two-county area doing the same activity will.

Ground level ozone, unlike the protective ozone layer in the upper atmosphere, is created by a chemical reaction between nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, including paint thinners, paint solvents, gasoline and alcohol, state environmental officials have said.

Repeated exposure to ozone pollution for several months can cause permanent lung damage in people, state environmental officials said at Wednesday's meeting at Jefferson County's public services building on Wiltshire Road.

The ozone level for Berkeley and Jefferson Counties has been up to 88 parts per billion, over the federal acceptable level of 84 parts per billion, officials have said.

To avoid being designated as a "nonattainment area" in the two-county region, a group of officials from the two counties are coming up with a plan to reduce ozone levels.

The plan needs to be submitted to the federal Environmental Protection Agency by June 16, said Jane Peters, executive director of the Jefferson County Development Authority.

A group of local officials working on an ozone reduction plan is compiling a list of proposals to bring the ozone level to within acceptable levels.

Ideas include ride sharing or car pooling, increased reliance on bicycle travel and improvements in the two-county area to encourage more pedestrian travel, said Timothy E. White of Wilbur Smith Associates, a planning firm hired by officials from the two counties to come up with an ozone plan.

Other proposals in the plan include avoiding grass cutting on certain days, riding a bus instead of driving, telecommuting, limiting truck and school bus idling and reducing speed limits.

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