The metropolitan Washington area experienced about 44 percent fewer days of air pollution from ground level ozone since 2003 than it did in several preceding years, according to a recent estimate by the Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee (MWAQC).
MWAQC officials said the positive trend indicates the success of programs instituted in 2003 and 2004. But the region faces new challenges to its improved air quality such as tougher standards for ozone, new rules governing pollution from fine particles, and the area’s rapid population growth.
“The good news is that the programs we put in place were successful and continue to move us in the right direction,” said Phil Mendelson, MWAQC’s chair and council member at-large of the District of Columbia. “Even though the summer was unusually hot, there was no increase over 2005 in the number of unhealthy days related to ozone. Ozone concentration in the air has dropped steadily now for several years.”
Nancy Floreen, Montgomery County council member and an MWAQC vice chair said, “The progress is the result of controls on power plants installed in 2003 and programs for cleaner fuels and cleaner large vehicles that began in 2004. We expect to meet the federal standard for controlling ozone by 2009, but because there will be population growth and new lanes added to our roadway system, we still have a lot of work to do. But if we all work together, I am sure we are up to the task.”
Maryland recently passed legislation to control power plant emissions as part of a 13-state effort. Maryland still has significant air quality challenges ahead and is striving to work hard to meet these challenges and bring healthy air to the citizens of Maryland. “The new Healthy Air Act and Governor Ehrlich’s Clean Power Rules are the key to bringing Maryland into compliance with new federal ozone and fine particulate air quality standards by 2010 and will also help clean up the Chesapeake Bay,” said Maryland Department of the Environment Air Director Tad Aburn.
David K. Paylor, director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, also acknowledged the region’s progress. Saying “Though we still have more work to do, we are very encouraged that pollution controls are resulting in cleaner air.”
Local governments also have been active partners in improving the region’s air quality, said David Snyder, City of Falls Church council member and an MWAQC vice chair. Several counties now use wind-generation for up to 15 percent of their energy needs. School and transit buses that use diesel fuel also have been updated to reduce pollution.
Air pollution from ground level ozone and fine particles can have serious health consequences for more than 1.5 million children and adults in the region, especially those with respiratory ailments.
For more information on COG’s air program, visit https://www.mwcog.org/environment/planning-areas/air-quality/