Center for the Environment hosts air quality summit
By Juanita Teschner
Center for the Environment
Elected officials from Rowan and Cabarrus counties were updated recently on the air quality problem the region faces and learned how the Center for the Environment intends to address it through the Campaign for Clean Air. They met in the center facility on the Catawba College campus.
John Wear, center executive director, and Shelia Armstrong, air quality outreach coordinator, told the group that the center’s new Campaign for Clean Air is designed to educate the public about air quality issues and to empower them to take action to address the problem.
Armstrong explained the center’s new Web sites, which provide information on air quality and the campaign. One is a joint effort with the Salisbury Post. To access it, individuals may visit www.salisburypost.com and click on “environment.” It provides the most recent news about air quality issues. The center’s dedicated Web site for the entire campaign is www.campaignforcleanair.org , which will be updated regularly with useful information for the public.
The campaign, which is funded by a reimbursement grant from the N.C. Department of Transportation, focuses on health issues related to poor air quality, alternative fuels and modes of transportation, bike paths, sidewalks, preservation of green space and energy conservation.
Jay Laurens, the center’s director of development, explained the center must provide outreach education services before it is reimbursed by the Department of Transportation at 80 percent of the cost. The center must raise $272,000 in matching funds. It has secured pledges amounting to $121,600 so far.
Donnie Redmond, ambient monitoring section chief of the N.C. Division of Air Quality, told the group that ground-level ozone levels across North Carolina have improved and are expected to continue on that positive trajectory despite population growth. However, the Metro-Charlotte area, which includes Cabarrus and Rowan counties, is the only remaining area in the state that has not achieved the 1997 ozone standard established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The current ozone standard was lowered in 2008 to 75 parts per billion, and the EPA will likely tighten the standard yet again because scientists and medical professionals find that health problems associated with ground-level ozone are not abating sufficiently.
The region’s lack of compliance with the EPA air quality standards means continued restrictions on transportation and industrial expansion, Redmond said. If the area is designated “serious,” industries would face additional restrictions and limitations. They currently have to get special federal permits if they emit more than 100 tons of certain pollutants per year. If Rowan and Cabarrus are placed in the serious category, the threshold for being required to get one of those permits drops to 50 tons. It would also require industries to install more emission-control equipment.
The N.C. Division of Air Quality has notified 37 facilities in Rowan and Cabarrus counties that could be affected if the area is designated serious. The EPA estimates that it generally costs $3,000 to $5,000 per ton to control emissions, though costs can vary widely.
Dan Mikkelson, the city of Salisbury’s director of engineering and development services, told the group the city is examining the merits of multi-use development, which allows commercial and residential buildings to be located in close proximity. While city officials are taking care not to compromise the value of properties or sacrifice the integrity of Salisbury’s development, they recognize that multi-use development improves traffic flow, air quality and the quality of life for its citizens.
Ken Geathers , chairman of the local Metropolitan Planning Organization, expressed a sense of urgency that Rowan and Cabarrus officials take steps to improve the area’s air quality to prevent the loss of millions of dollars in federal highway funding.
By Joedy McCreary Associated Press GREENVILLEó C.J. Wilson blocked the kick, scooped the ball and took off for the goal... read more