The air quality alert issued over the weekend by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resourses for eastern and south-central Wisconsin expired Monday afternoon.
DNR Land Records Officer Ann Runyard said the department alerted 18 counties Sunday, citing high levels of fine particle pollution.
Runyard said people most affected by fine particle pollution include children, the elderly and individuals with respiratory problems. The DNR’s air quality alerts work to ensure that these sensitive groups remain healthy, she added.
“We notify the public so they can be aware of the exposure and of any symptoms they may be having,” Runyard said. “They could be more careful and spend the day inside.”
Runyard said fine particle levels are typically higher in the fall and winter months and added the cold temperatures and lack of wind are the cause of trapping particles in the air.
Although she noted there is no one cause of fine particle pollution in the Midwest, factories, engines and agricultural by-products are often to blame. She added more urban areas, like Madison, typically experience fine particle pollution from vehicles.
Runyard said the new technology that allows the DNR to closely monitor air quality has been helpful in regard to letting the public know when the air is clean and safe.
Along with the DNR working to detect and prevent air pollution, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and other companies have been addressing other environmental issues in the area.
Parisi announced an initiative in October, the Dane County Clean Lakes Task Force, to clean surrounding lakes as part of his 2013 budget resolution.
According to Parisi, the task focuses on removing phosphorus from lakes in Dane County, because the chemical element is the root cause of most of the challenges lakes face with the excessive weed and algae growth it causes.
The collaboration is comprised of county board supervisors and staff, members from the Madison Metropolitan Sewage District and the Lakes and Watershed Commission, people with urban interests, agricultural experts and others, Parisi said.
“People have really come together to implement the projects we need to start cleaning up our lakes, so it’s important we coordinate this partnership and the work we do together,” he said. “We have all these different organizations who are currently working together toward the same goal and this will help us remain on the same page and coordinate our efforts in an efficient manner.”
Parisi said the planning will go into effect Jan. 1 2013, along with the rest of the budget plans. The efforts to clean area lakes in the 2013 county budget come to about a $4.5 million investment out of the overall budget of $522 million, he said.