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Committee suspects high-ozone air coming from outside region
PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- Government and industry officials met Friday to begin tackling an issue they believe is largely out of their control: reducing ozone levels in Southeast Missouri.
Members of the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission's Air Quality Committee gathered in Perryville to review data from the Environmental Protection Agency that shows the amount of volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen -- precursors to the formation of ozone -- produced in the region's seven counties.
David Grimes, deputy director of the planning commission in Perryville, encouraged stakeholders to look at readings for their respective areas to make sure levels reported match local industries and activities.
"We need to make sure we understand the numbers" Grimes said.
Those numbers likely will be a source of future arguments, he said, as the committee fights to keep the region from being designated a "nonattainment area," or, an area with pollution readings that routinely exceed EPA standards. Should that happen, he said, restrictions on emissions would be tightened to the extent it would burden local industry and governments, and make economic development more difficult.
Grimes shared a draft of a "Path Forward" awareness plan the committee developed to demonstrate the area's commitment to reducing emissions. The group discussed feedback from EPA representative Lachala Kemp, dated Jan. 22, that asked for a specific timeline, the inclusion of health-based reasons for compliance and expansion of voluntary compliance options.
Perryville Mayor Debbie Gahan, who chaired the meeting, said the committee has no regulatory power to impose restrictions. Existing industries already are tightly regulated by agencies such as the Department of Natural Resources, she said.
"Actually, our hands are fairly tied," Gahan said.
Grimes said a local air analysis showed an origination point from Minnesota that passed over Chicago and coal-fired power plants along the Ohio River before blowing into the Perry County monitor, located in Farrar. The monitor was put in place by the EPA in the 1990s to measure values upwind of St. Louis, he said. Readings exceeded the current standard of 75 parts per billion a record 14 times last year. The ozone season typically runs from April through October.
"I'm not sure what we can do," Grimes said.
She said one widespread emissions-reduction program has come to an end. The Stage II Vapor Recovery Requirement, which mandated that gas stations use vapor-reducing nozzles, is being phased out. Improvements in vehicles' onboard systems have made them unnecessary.
He updated the committee on a Diesel Emission Reduction Act project. Funded by EPA and DNR grants, a project to replace propulsion engines on a Mississippi River workboat with state-of-the-art low-emissions technology is nearly ready to launch.
The next meeting of the Air Quality Committee will be April 26 at the American Legion Hall in Perryville.
98 Grand Ave., Perryville, Mo.