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Study says county's air quality is good and no checks needed

July 11, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Motorists in Franklin County will not be required to have their vehicle emission systems inspected annually, based on an air quality study that shows declining levels of pollutants from increasing numbers of cars and trucks.

The study, conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, looked at four projects - the ongoing Exit 17, widening of U.S. 30, extension of Norland Avenue in Chambersburg and the Waynesboro, Pa., traffic signal improvement project - to determine if the resulting increase in traffic will mean higher ozone levels, county Senior Planner Sherri Clayton said.

"There is not going to be a great impact," Clayton said last week.

She later told the Board of County Commissioners that the study shows levels of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, and nitrogen oxides, which react to form ozone - the main component of smog - will actually decrease in future years.

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"If you look at cars in urban areas of the state, you see two inspection stickers, one for the vehicle and one for the emissions system," Franklin County Planning Director Phil Tarquino said. To lower ozone levels or limit projected increases, a number of Pennsylvania counties require emissions testing, including neighboring Cumberland County, he said.

That will not be the case in Franklin County until at least 2009, when another study will be required, Clayton said. Similar studies mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are conducted across the nation, she said.

The air quality standards, set by the federal Clean Air Act and subsequent amendments, require emissions of VOCs and nitrogen oxides to be less than 1990 levels and not more than 2002 levels, according to a summary of the study. In coming up with the figures, the study looked at the age of the vehicle fleet in the county, along with factors such as temperature, humidity and wind conditions, which can affect ozone levels.

In 1990, the study estimated VOC emissions at 14,150 kilograms per day under worst-case weather conditions, with the figure dropping to 8,852 kilograms per day in 2002. The study shows the level dropping to 6,194 kilograms by 2008 and projects levels of 3,277 kilograms per day by 2025.

Nitrogen oxide emissions dropped from 18,937 kilograms per day in 1990 to 16,551 kilograms in 2002 and are expected to decrease to 3,680 kilograms by 2025, according to the study.

All of this is projected to happen while the number of vehicle miles traveled each day in the county rose from 3.5 million in 1990 to 4.5 million miles in 2002 and is expected to hit 6.8 million miles per day in 2025, according to the study.

The main reason vehicle miles can increase while emissions decrease is cleaner cars, along with cleaner burning fuels and tougher vehicle emission standards set to take effect in the future, Commissioner G. Warren Elliott said.

"Older cars coming off the market. Those vehicles will eventually be gone," Commissioner Bob Thomas said of the aging polluters.

The study concluded the county's transportation improvement program will satisfy the requirements of the Clean Air Act.

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