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To mow or not to mow

June 06, 2003

Officials in Berkeley and Jefferson counties in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle are considering asking residents not to mow their lawns on certain days and to take more trips on foot and on bicycles instead of jumping in their cars for every little errand.

No it's not to cut down on the amount of noise pollution, though that would certainly be a nice by-product. The culprit local officials are trying to eliminate is ozone.

Even a few months' exposure to ground-level ozone can cause permanent lung damage, according to officials of the state EPA's Division of Air Quality.

Ozone in Berkeley and Jefferson counties has been measured at 88 parts per billion, more than the federal acceptable level of 84 parts per billion. In an effort to keep from being tagged as a "nonattainment area," officials want to try to reduce ozone emissions.

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Lawn mowers are being targeted as a key source because according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Transportation and Air Quality, a typical gasoline-powered lawnmower produces as much pollution as driving 200 miles in a late-model compact car. Gas-powered string trimmers are even worse, the EPA says.

Would refraining from lawn mowing on certain days help? Maybe, maybe not. As one resident noted, much local pollution probably comes from vehicles traveling Interstate 81.

But to do nothing is to risk the fate of Maryland, which now forces motorists to undergo periodic emissions tests and pay up to $450 for repairs if the cars don't pass.

We have long believed that if given a choice, most citizens will do the right thing. We recommend that Berkeley and Jefferson county officials get out information on lawnmower pollution, then ask citizens to refrain from cutting on certain days.

If it works, then residents can take satisfaction in the fact that they've not only curbed pollution, but also delayed the day when the feds will control more and more of residents' private lives.

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