The Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee (MWAQC) has approved for comment an air quality plan to reduce fine particle pollution in the region. Fine particle pollution is a mixture of microscopic solids and liquid droplets suspended in air. At 2.5 microns in diameter, the small particles can get deep into lungs and even the bloodstream. People with heart or lung disease, older adults and children are at greater risk from this type of pollution.
Levels of fine particle pollution have been declining in the region since 2005, and under the regional plan released for public comment, these levels are expected to continue to decrease. While levels of fine particles in the region are actually meeting the current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) national standard, MWAQC decided to issue a more stringent plan than required because several states, including Maryland and the District of Columbia, have challenged EPA on the standard, arguing that it is not protective enough of public health. In 1997, EPA set an annual fine particle standard less stringent than the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, an independent EPA advisory body, recommended.
“Even though the region has complied with EPA’s annual fine particle standard, MWAQC has prepared a plan to further reduce levels of fine particle pollution by 2009,” said MWAQC Chair and Montgomery County Council Member Nancy Floreen. “Through wind purchases and green buildings, improving energy efficiency, and increasing tree canopy in the region, local governments are helping reduce fine particle pollution even further.”
Measures included in the region’s ozone plan released earlier this year will also reduce levels of fine particles in next three years. States in the region are adopting the Clean Air Interstate Rule (in Maryland, the “Healthy Air Act”) that will reduce pollution from power plants. The state rules will reduce sulfur dioxide, a major component of fine particles, from power plants by 80% starting in 2010. Cleaner car and truck engine technology and low sulfur fuel will also reduce fine particles.
The states will announce the beginning of the 30-day public comment period around December 28, and it will end with public hearings in the region the week of January 28, 2008. The plan will be available on the COG website.
For further information see www.mwcog.org/environment/planning-areas/air-quality/