A new report gave Dane County marginal reviews for air quality, although the county still ranked within national standards.
An annual report by the American Lung Association gave the country a failing grade for short-term particle pollution but awarded an A for ozone pollution, according to Wisconsin ALA spokesperson Dona Wininsky. Despite one failing grade in the report, Dane County passed the year-round particle pollution test, she added.
Bart Sponseller, director for Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said the county’s pollution level is still considered to be within the national pollution standard.
“If it measures at 35.5 [micrograms] or higher, it’s not attaining the standard,” Sponseller said of the county’s pollution level. “The design value for Dane County was 31.”
The DNR disagreed with ALA’s assessment of Dane County’s pollution levels because it compared Madison to areas in California that are known to have higher pollution, Sponseller said.
He added the air pollution monitored by DNR in the state indicates that Madison is meeting the standards and northern Wisconsin is doing even better.
Much of Wisconsin’s pollution derives from open burning, including fire pits and diesel emissions, according to Wininsky.
“Wisconsin is a state where people like to burn wood,” Wininsky said. “We like our outdoor fire pits, wood-burning stoves and outdoor wood boilers. The take-home message is to reduce the amount of open burning.”
Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment Director Tracey Holloway said pollution in Wisconsin can also be attributed to emissions from power plants, transportation and agriculture. She said coal is a major factor as well, as Wisconsin receives two-thirds of its electricity from the substance.
According to Wininsky, Dane County’s grade has increased from past years. She said most ozone pollution occurs by Lake Michigan where pollution travels up from Chicago and Milwaukee.
Wininsky added particle pollution was “all across the board” in different counties, and Milwaukee, Brown, Outagamie and Waukesha counties all received failing grades as well. Wisconsin’s best county received a B.
Holloway said this report has proven to be helpful because it has brought attention to the issue of air pollution.
“No county wants to get a bad grade, but when you get a grade like this, it helps us think about how to make things better,” Holloway said.
Sponseller said to help reduce air pollution in Dane County, the community created a volunteer program, “Cleaner Air Faster,” that works with members of the community and the university to find solutions to the pollution issue.
Holloway added there is a group in Dane County called the Clean Air Coalition, that helps with pollution by providing free buses on days in which air pollution is considered to be above normal.
According to Holloway, state and federal policies put in place to combat air pollution are seeing results. There has been a steady decline of pollution since 1970, when regulation policies were put in place.