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Ozone levels exceeded in area 5 times this year
The area could now be in violation of the Environmental Protection Agency's eight-hour ozone standard after two high readings this month.
The ozone monitor in Farrar, Mo., exceeded the standard of 75 parts per billion two times during June, according to data collected by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Businesses in counties that fail to meet ozone standards may face restrictions on their emission of pollutants that contribute to the formation of ozone.
A reading of 80 parts per billion registered June 14 and a reading of 84 parts per billion registered June 15. This brings the total number of exceedances to five in 2012 according to DNR readings and raises the area's Design Value, the measurement used by EPA to determine compliance, above the standard to 76 parts per billion.
The Design Value is a three-year rolling average of the fourth highest readings from each year on the monitor. As of June 17, the four highest readings on the Farrar monitor were 84, 82, 81 and 80, making the fourth highest reading for 2012 80 as of now.
It's unclear if there will be any immediate action taken by DNR or EPA in response to these readings.
"Our Air Pollution Control Program staff are evaluating the situation further right now," said Renee Bungart, director of communications for DNR.
These high readings are so alarming to David Grimes, deputy director of the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning Commission who heads the area's Air Quality Task Force, that he's asked DNR to inspect the Farrar monitor to ensure it is measuring properly.
Heat and sunlight are key ingredients in the creation of ozone and while the area has seen some hot days, the entire state has had the same high temperatures and other monitors are still reading in compliance, he said.
"I just wish I could explain why the Farrar numbers are so high. Unfortunately, I cannot," Grimes said.
According to an email response sent to Grimes from Stephen Hall, monitoring unit chief with DNR's Air Pollution Control Program, quality control checks for the state's 23 ozone monitors are performed about once every two weeks. The Farrar monitor's last quality control check was Wednesday and it validates the ozone exceedances that occurred June 14 and 15, he said.
"Air Program staff have performed a preliminary review of the prevailing meteorology for 6/14 and 6/15 and the conditions were conducive for ozone formation," Hall said in the email. These include sunny and warm with a ridge of high pressure.
The exceedances on these days weren't limited to Farrar. All of DNR's seven St. Louis monitors also recorded exceedances June 14 and five recorded exceedances June 15.
The only monitor in the state with more exceedances in 2012 than Farrar is West Alton, Mo., in St. Charles County with six exceedances.
Last year, Farrar had just three exceedances during the entire ozone season, which runs from April through October, according to DNR records. There were five exceedances in 2010 and two in 2009. None were recorded in 2008.
Ozone standards are revised every five years, with the next review set to begin next year.
Local economic development officials are concerned that being designated a nonattainment zone for ozone could limit the growth of existing businesses and deter new ones from locating here.
"The additional requirements of being designated nonattainment would potentially add costs to our local businesses, which wouldn't be good. It would severely strain them," said Scott Sattler, executive director of the Perry County Economic Development Authority.
Sattler is a member of the regional Air Quality Task Force, which will meet again July 27 in Perryville, Mo. Other members include businesses, local utility companies and local government representatives.