It looks like three high ozone totals between 2008 and 2010 will keep the Akron-Cleveland area from complying with tighter federal clean-air rules. And that would mean E-Check will remain.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will issue its ozone designations soon and the eight counties in Northeast Ohio will probably be designated as a “marginal” nonattainment area. The Ohio EPA supports the designation for Summit, Portage, Medina, Cuyahoga, Lorain, Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties.
This would require installation of what’s called reasonably achievable control technology on industrial air emissions and reductions in air pollution, called offsets, before industries will be allowed to move in or expand. It will also require the continuation of the E-Check vehicle emission testing for the region’s 2.8 million residents.
The Akron-Cleveland area would have three years from the official EPA designation to comply with the stricter limit on the pollutant ozone.
It is likely that the region will be able to comply within the required time, based on recent ozone reductions, said clean air planner Vijay Krishna Nemalapuri of the Cleveland-based Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency.
The eight counties now fail the new limit of 75 parts per billion for ozone, which can cause breathing problems for children, the elderly and asthmatics. The problem was high ozone readings from 2008-2010 in three counties: Lake (77), Geauga (77) and Ashtabula (78). Summit County got a 74; Portage, 67; Medina, 68; Cuyahoga, 75; and Lorain, 69.
The EPA considers the eight counties to be an ozone region and a high reading in one county affects all eight.
The region actually improved a bit from 2009-2011, with Geauga County (73) complying and Lake (77) and Ashtabula (78) counties failing.
The other 2009-2011 totals are Summit, 74; Portage, 67; Medina, 68; Lorain, 69; and Cuyahoga, 75.
But the ozone totals from 2008-2010 are the ones that the federal EPA is using to determine compliance, not the newer data.
The Akron-Cleveland area had been labeled a more serious “moderate” non- attainment area in 1997. But the eight counties complied with the ozone limit of 85 parts per billion in late 2009. The five counties around Cincinnati came into compliance in 2010.
Counties around Columbus and Cincinnati are also expected to be designated as “marginal” noncompliance areas by the U.S. EPA.
Nineteen Ohio counties will probably fail the new federal ozone limit of 75 parts per billion, according to Ohio EPA projections.
In the Midwest, counties around Chicago-Gary, St. Louis and Milwaukee are also expected to fail the new ozone limit. All will be labeled marginal nonattainment areas.
The EPA throws out the three highest ozone readings each year. The fourth-highest is the key number. That total is averaged over three years and becomes the key ozone number.
In the Akron-Cleveland area, ozone is formed when 110,000 tons of hydrocarbons combine with 111,000 tons of nitrogen oxides in direct sunlight. The pollutants come from industry, vehicles and coal-burning power plants.
Ozone levels in Northeast Ohio have dropped by 19 percent over the last 30 years, Nemalapuri said.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.