The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed today to reclassify the Metropolitan Washington region as an area that meets its fine particle standards. The EPA action is based on three years of monitored data comparing local air quality to the 1997 federal health standards for fine particles.
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.
“This is a powerful validation of the hard work of all elements of the region – government, businesses and individuals,” said Falls Church Council Member David Snyder, who serves as Chair of the Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee (MWAQC). “Even so, we continue to work on additional measures to further improve our air quality.”
Local governments are helping improve air quality through wind purchases and green buildings, improving energy efficiency, and increasing tree canopy in the region. In addition, through the adoption of the Clean Air Interstate Rule (the “Healthy Air Act” in Maryland), states in the region are working to 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.
“Our hard work is paying off for residents of the Washington region,” said Montgomery County Council Member and MWAQC Member Nancy Floreen. “Every year the air gets a little cleaner.”
When EPA makes the determination final later this year, the region will be relieved of its requirement to continue preparing a plan and other planning requirements of nonattainment areas. The requirements will be suspended for as long as the region continues to meet the federal standard.