The Dane County Clean Air Coalition announced Friday the county will be removed from the list of 211 counties nationwide that do not comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency public health standards for fine particles.
According to Dave Miller, director of policy and program development in the Dane County Executive Office and former coordinator of the Dane County CAC, the county expects a decision regarding its compliance with air quality policy from the EPA in either April or May.
All counties throughout the nation must meet the standard set by the EPA, Miller said, adding the state government continually monitors the state’s air quality.
Miller said in December 2008, Dane County was declared a “non-attainment area” based on particle levels measured throughout 2007. New updated particle numbers in 2008 resulted in Dane County’s compliance with ozone and fine particle standards.
The standard requires air particles of dust and pollution to be 2.5 microns or less, according to Miller.
“A micron is about a third of a piece of hair on your head,” he said. “They are extremely small, fine particles.”
Because the particle sizes can be hazardous to public health, Topf Wells, chief of staff for Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, said in October 2006, former president George W. Bush’s administration tightened the EPA’s fine particle standard.
Miller said the standard was shortened from 65 microgram per cubic meters to 35 micrograms per cubic meter. He added Dane County had an air particle level of 37 micrograms per cubic meter.
“Healthy air means a healthier economy, which is a win-win for Dane County residents,” Jennifer Alexander, president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. “Air pollution hurts our economy. If Dane County were to exceed federal air pollution standards, it would mean the burden of mandatory regulations to reduce air pollution that could cost Dane County citizens and businesses millions of dollars each year.”
The health obstacles caused by air particle pollution constrain businesses financially in Dane County because businesses that want to expand or relocate to the county are unable to do so if the particles are hazardous to the environment, according to Alexander.
Particle pollution can cause increased mortality, lung aggravation, lung disease, asthma and heart problems, Wells said. He added 10 percent of Dane County residents — approximately 40,000 people — have asthma.
“People are really on the fine line when particles reach an unhealthy level,” Wells said.
Additionally, the CAC has private and public partnerships with businesses throughout Dane County, taking a major role to make sure air particle pollution does not affect businesses, Miller said. Dane County’s Chamber of Commerce is a founding member of the coalition.
Miller said Dane County received 300,000 groups to retrofit every school bus in Dane County in 2008, and the county is working to reduce diesel pollution, a major contributor to fine particle pollution.