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Ozone meeting is set

December 12, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A public meeting will be held next week to discuss how the levels of harmful ozone in Berkeley and Jefferson counties can be reduced.

The meeting will be Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Berkeley County Planning Commission room at 119 W. King St. in Martinsburg. Public meetings previously were held in June, when the suggestions on how ozone might be reduced were announced.

Public comments will be included in a report that must be sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by Dec. 31, said Bob Crawford, executive director of the Berkeley County Development Authority.

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Unlike the layer of beneficial ozone in the Earth's atmosphere, ground-level ozone is dangerous and can cause health problems. A device used to measure ozone in Berkeley and Jefferson counties showed an ambient air concentration of ozone of 88 parts per billion. The federal acceptable level is 84 ppb.

Failure to attain acceptable ozone levels means the counties could be labeled as "non-attainment," which means it would be more difficult for existing industries to expand or for new industries to open, Crawford said.

Road construction could be hindered and gas prices might increase, officials have said.

Suggestions to reduce ozone submitted so far include asking people to walk or ride a bicycle when possible and enacting engine idling restrictions for trucks and buses.

Other ideas for reducing ground-level ozone include ride sharing or carpooling, telecommuting, reducing speed limits, asking people to ride a bus instead of driving and improving the two-county area to encourage more pedestrian travel, said Timothy E. White of Wilbur Smith Associates.

The end of the long process to possibly avert non-attainment status comes at the end of 2005, when emission control measures must be in place, Durham said.

The EPA is set to declare sites as non-attainment in April.

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