Posts tagged with smog
Hold your breath, Georgia. We are officially at the midpoint of smog season, and here is where things stand with respect to the air we breathe:
1. To date, there have been about 15 instances across Georgia -- in some cases, multiple areas on the same day -- when concentrations of ground-level ozone reached unhealthy levels. Here is a trend comparison to show past years' violations (for all areas monitored in Georgia) from May 1 through July 15:
As you can see, the trend is generally moving in the direction we want.
2. On July 7, metro Atlanta witnessed its first Code Red smog day since 2008, a signal that there is still much work to be done. A heat wave, combined with stagnant air and too many tailpipes out on the roads, proved too much for the region to bear.
3. While it is impossible to predict what's in store for the second half of smog season, what we do know is that the standards by which our air quality is measured - standards created by the US Environmental Protection Agency to protect public health - are slated to become more strict at the end of August. Why? Because the more we learn about the effects of long-term exposure to air pollution, the greater the sense of urgency becomes to protect ourselves.
The Clean Air Campaign is following the developments surrounding new air quality standards and we'll have more details very soon on what's changing, what impact the changes will have across Georgia and what you can do. In the meantime, stay cool and let's hope for a quiet second half to smog season.
Saw the ice cream truck in my neighborhood the other day, so it must be summer! The new season brings out the carefree kid in all of us. So, slather on some sunscreen. Throw down your towel and run through the sprinkler. Stay cool with this latest edition of Merging Lanes.
Et Tu, Kudzu?
The Clean Air Campaign is all for going green, but this is wild. As if vehicle tailpipes weren't enough, new research has introduced a new arch nemesis in Georgia's fight against ground-level ozone: kudzu. Not only is the state's landscape blanketed in the leafy green stuff from Buford to Bainbridge, but we're also learning that a chemical reaction in kudzu produces more of the nitrogen oxide compounds that are a chief ingredient in smog. So, grab your hedge clippers in the name of cleaner air. We might have to develop a new incentive program … Cash for Kudzu.
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All Quiet on the Code Orange Front … For Now
Speaking of air pollution, we've cleared the first month of smog season 2010 edition with a flurry of exceedances in the first week, followed by three weeks straight without any. That's been a good streak. But before you get too excited, keep in mind that cooler weather probably deserves much of the credit. Any day is a good day to choose alternatives to driving alone on your daily commute. Watch this space in about 90 days, when the US Environmental Protection Agency is slated to announce new, more stringent standards for ground-level ozone to protect public health.
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Technically Speaking, Greener Driving is Attainable
Interesting story from GreenBiz.com about new technology and tools that enhance driving efficiency. We all know about GPS, but eco-routing takes navigation a step further by tying it to fuel consumption and a futuristic ability for a car's engine to "look ahead" at the terrain to make decisions related to engine performance. Smarter travel is headed this way ... but the most intelligent way to improve the air we breathe is to drive less.
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Dump the Pump with MARTA on June 17
Hop on the bus or take the train to work to help MARTA celebrate their annual "Dump the Pump" event, which takes place June 17. And for fun, MARTA is hosting a special contest that asks patrons to express via video and blog "Why MARTA Matters to the Environment." Get the details here.
As the hub for NE Georgia, Athens is a major employment, education, health and entertainment center growing in popularity and population. A steady stream of new residents and a burgeoning daytime population brings increased challenges related to demand for energy, transportation infrastructure, and increasing air quality degradation.
According to the EPD, 62% of smog-forming emissions in Athens-Clarke County come from tailpipes of cars and trucks. This represents a significant problem for our air quality, particularly with respect to ground-level ozone. Indeed, Athens-Clarke County stands on the verge of failing to meet federal air quality standards designed to protect the public's health. With tighter standards likely to come later this year, non-attainment status could lead to stricter permitting requirements in the county, more regulatory controls, depressed economic growth, and a generally negative stigma about the quality of life in Athens.
But, with stricter regulatory and volunteer actions, Athens can face this challenge head on! By working together, every local employer, commuter, and resident can make a huge difference in improving and protecting Athens' air quality. This is one of the reasons why Athens-Clarke County partnered with the Clean Air Campaign and created Travel Smart Week as a way to showcase how choosing alternatives to driving alone can help improve the air we breathe.
Thanks to an expanding network of transportation alternatives, including Athens Transit, sidewalks, and bike lanes, individuals can travel with increasingly less dependency on their cars. Everyone is encouraged to get out of their cars, enjoy the fresh air, get some exercise and Travel Smart!
Heidi Davison is the mayor of Athens-Clarke County and serves on the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center Board. Through their use of commute options programs in the past year, Athens-Clarke County Unified Government employees have kept more than 8,000 pounds of pollution out of the air we breathe.
We're one week into the official beginning of smog season across Georgia, and the 2010 version - so far - reads nothing like that of 2009.
By all accounts, the state had a mild smog season last year, aided by slightly cooler temperatures and more rainfall. The first Code Orange smog day of 2009 didn't arrive in metro Atlanta until June 1. This year, we've come out of the gate with several Code Orange days for ground-level ozone, not just in ATL but around the state:
Date of Exceedance
And today is likely to mark a trifecta of dirty, brown air pollution nobody in the Atlanta region wants to see ... or breathe in. Data show we're experiencing a slightly warmer start to May than we did last year. And WSB meteorologist David Chandley points out in a quote from today's AJC that the Code Orange forecast for today is on the milder end of the spectrum. But this string of bad air days reinforces the need for Georgia employers, commuter and schools to focus on two things:
Learn more about both, plus get some background on air quality issues in The Clean Air Campaign's debut podcast. Chime in and let us know what you think of it. And let us know what you're doing to beat back smog in Georgia.
I remember the moment I became part of The Clean Air Campaign. My then 6-year-old daughter had a terrible cough one night and began struggling to breathe.
She was having a severe asthma attack.
Though we live just a few miles from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, there is no longer drive on Earth than to the hospital when your child cannot breathe. She is okay now, but the impression is lasting.
I learned everything I could about asthma. For example:
- Asthma is the #1 reason kids are admitted into emergency rooms.
- Almost 1 in 10 children in the U.S. have asthma—that’s 7 million children who cannot breathe.
- Asthma accounts for 10.6 million doctor visits a year
Most importantly, I learned that poor air quality can trigger asthma. There are two kinds of pollutants that can trigger respiratory problems, 1) ground level ozone and 2) particle pollution (soot). And the primary cause of all this airborne junk? Cars.
I drove to work that summer as all the facts swirled in my head. I sat in traffic and realized I was in an SUV— ALL BY MYSELF! Everything leaving my exhaust pipe was floating around waiting for my daughter and all the other people with asthma to breathe it in. That’s when I became part of The Clean Air Campaign. I now drive a hybrid, telework, carpool, ride transit, do whatever I can to keep a car off the road.
Just like a former smoker can be pretty fervent when talking to smokers, I confess I can be preachy about not spewing more stuff in the air than we have to. I know it’s not easy to get around in Atlanta without driving alone sometimes. I just ask you to think about it more. Can you ride with a co-worker to the meeting instead of taking separate cars? Can you take MARTA to the game? How about riding with your spouse or a neighbor to work? The Clean Air Campaign can even help you find a carpool partner.
Just give it a try. Change the way you drive and maybe fewer kids will have to take that long ride to the ER.
Rudy Fernandez is the owner/creative director at Radio Outhouse. Rudy and his colleagues have worked with The Clean Air Campaign for 8 years and have produced several memorable radio spots and other advertising projects for less traffic and cleaner air that are heard/seen around the region, some of which have won national recognition.
The Clean Air Campaign and Governor Perdue got together last Thursday for the signing of a special proclamation to go with Georgia’s Air Quality Awareness Week, which takes place the week of April 26 to 30. BAIR, the Better Air Bear, made a guest appearance.
Even though smog season does not officially begin until May 1, Athens, GA and Columbus, GA already experienced Code Orange smog days this past Friday when ground-level ozone pollution reached unhealthy levels. Get prepared for smog season by signing up for Smog Alerts.
There’s a lot going on right now in the world of mass transit, and sadly, it’s looking bleak. In metro Atlanta, C-TRAN’s service ended last week, which affected 8,500 commuters, many of whom depend on public transportation. More cuts are looming for MARTA when the calendar clicks over to the new fiscal year on July 1, 2010. However, we’re not alone. Mass transit agencies across the country are facing budget crises. According to the American Public Transportation Association, eight out of 10 bus and subway agencies are raising fares and cutting service or considering those actions. The timing couldn’t be worse with smog season just weeks away.
Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for these issues. But there is an influential group out there that needs to find its voice. When more employers in the region show state and local government how important mass transit is for their commuting employees, then perhaps transit won’t continue to be one of the first items on the chopping block when’s there’s a budget shortfall.
What do you think about the local service cuts? Tell us your ideas for how we all can work together to save mass transit in the Atlanta region.
Major developments on the air quality front have been a hot topic over the past week, as the US Environmental Protection Agency announced proposed new revisions to a federal air quality standard designed to protect the public from excessive exposure to ground-level ozone. The review, which is part of the Clean Air Act, is happening more than a year ahead of schedule. So, how should we take this news in Georgia, where roughly one in five counties fails to meet the current standard?
First, there are many things going right in Georgia with respect to ground-level ozone and air quality. Last year, metro Atlanta registered no Code Red days (unhealthy for all) during what was an uncharacteristically mild smog season. And we have not seen a Code Purple day (hazardous) in several years. A combination of factors have driven this positive change in our state, like scrubbers at coal-fired power plants, special blend gasoline that emits less pollution, commute options programs like the ones offered by The Clean Air Campaign and its partners, more efficient vehicles, etc.
Second, what is clear is that the more research that becomes available from the health and science communities, the stronger the connection between exposure to even small amounts of ground-level ozone and serious public health hazards. The EPA reviewed some 1,700 scientific studies prior to introducing the most recent standard change in March 2008, which ratcheted the threshold down. Today, the discussion around the latest proposed revision is that even more stringent regulations are needed to protect public health.
While it's too soon in the process to know precisely where the new threshold will fall, what is certain is that more Georgia employers, municipalities, commuters and schools will be called upon to help through voluntary actions (driving less and reducing unnecessary idling, for example). There are no quick fixes to meet the current standard, let alone a more stringent standard down the road -- especially in a state where population growth continues to place heavy demand on energy and transportation output. But Georgia is in better position than many other states that will face the challenge of meeting stricter standards because we have programs, incentives and support -- unique to Georgia and already up and running in major metropolitan areas -- that can point us in the right direction.
It goes without saying that The Clean Air Campaign’s staff works hard to serve Georgia employers, commuters and schools. Like any job, the satisfaction you get out of it is directly related to the effort you put into it. And in many ways for our team, the motivation for less traffic and cleaner air comes from the fun activities that are made more enjoyable when we can have clearer skies under which to play.
Mark Poole, a Commuter Services Coordinator with just over two years of service at The Clean Air Campaign, gets to enjoy the respiratory fruits of his labor out on the fields almost every weekend with his Ultimate Frisbee team, Chain Lightning. This fall, Mark’s team won the national title at the 2009 Ultimate Players’ Association Championships. We caught up with Mark to learn more about his exploits on the field and why he’s motivated to work for less traffic and cleaner air.
Q: How did you become interested in Ultimate Frisbee?
A: I got turned on to it in college after hearing about it from one of my professors, who played on a travel team. I’ve been playing for about five years and never imagined I’d get a chance to compete at a championship level. I just love playing the game and where it has taken me.
Q: How do you play Ultimate Frisbee?
A: We play seven on seven on a field with two end zones. The object is to score by passing the disc into the end zone and there are offensive and defensive teams, which switch back and forth based on possession. The game is non-contact and it’s self-officiated. Depending on the game setup and tournament rules, the first team to score 15 points wins.
Q: What’s the pace of the game and the overall vibe?
A: I play in a competitive men’s league, but there are also recreational leagues and co-ed leagues all over the world. We always strive to have a friendly competition. The fact that games are self-officiated means we are committed to good sportsmanship. It’s not uncommon to share a beer with our competition after a game.
Q: As an outdoor sport, what do you enjoy about Ultimate Frisbee?
A: Being active and playing outside is very important to me. The season runs from May to November. Coincidentally, that’s almost in line with Smog Season in Georgia. So of course I want to have clean air to breathe in. It’s a great experience to be able to run around under blue skies and soak in the sunshine. But it can also be fulfilling to play in other weather conditions because it adds variety.
Q: How much work goes into competing on an Ultimate Frisbee squad?
A: I run and train at the track every week. My team practices almost every weekend for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday. We put a lot of work into our game. We’ve got 26 guys on our team. Some are serious. Some are laid back. We always have fun, but we know how to get focused and win.
Q: Besides air, what goes into the physics of throwing a Frisbee?
A: Spin keeps a Frisbee aloft. The more spin, the farther, flatter and faster the disc will travel. It takes a good snap of the wrist to get spin. And there are different angles you need to choose when you’re passing to teammates across the field.
Q: Where has Chain Lightning competed?
A: It’s amazing where we’ve traveled to play against other teams in tournaments around the country. We’ve been to Seattle, Santa Cruz, Washington D.C., Baton Rouge, Austin, Florida and all over the Southeast.
Q: And most recently you were in Sarasota, FL competing at the nationals. What was that like?
A: We represented the Southeast region at the national championships, which is a four-day tournament. We went in as the #2 seed and faced off against the #1 seed from San Francisco in the finals. The weather was uncharacteristically hot for Florida in late-October and we were thoroughly tired from all the games leading up to the finals. But we were playing great defense the whole tournament and knew we could stand up to them with aggressive defensive play. Playing in a championship game was such an adrenaline rush. We were amped up to have made it so far. Chain Lightning is the first champion in history to come out of the Southeast.
Q: Congrats on taking home the trophy. What’s the next big quest for Chain Lightning?
A: We’ll compete in July 2010 at the World Ultimate Club Championships in Prague, Czech Republic.
Q: Where can Georgians interested in learning about Ultimate Frisbee learn more?
Congrats to Mark and his team for their big win. What do you do you like to do outdoors – now or in any season – that gets you motivated to protect the air we breathe?
It's early October, which means harvest time is on the way. And The Clean Air Campaign has transportation and air quality news by the bushel. So, slip on your work gloves and reap what we've sown in the latest edition of Merging Lanes.
Smog Season Wrap Up: Sigh of Relief
The 2009 Smog Season concluded last week and, amazingly, was one of the quietest for ground-level ozone in the past decade. To be sure, Georgia caught a big break. The final tally for unhealthy air days -- 18 across the state, with 16 of those days occurring in metro Atlanta -- was aided by more rainfall, cooler temperatures and slightly windier conditions. What really stands out is that the 2009 Smog Season never brought a Code Red day. The 18 smog days we experienced were all within the Code Orange range. Ground-level ozone is less likely to form outside the period between May and September. But stay on your toes, because particle pollution is a year-round problem in Georgia, creating more risks to respiratory health.
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Ground-Level Ozone Standards Revisited
The Environmental Protection Agency is charged with establishing and updating "national ambient air quality standards" to protect public health and welfare. In March of 2008, the EPA rolled out a new standard for ground-level ozone that was tougher than the previous standard. The rationale for tightening the standard was that scientific evidence suggested exposure to ground-level ozone at lower concentrations still posed a significant health hazard. While the business community reacted with concern that the revised standards were too strict, health and environmental advocates were concerned the revised standards didn't go far enough. Since that time, a new administration has entered the White House and news broke last week that the standard will be revisited again, with the possibility of a revised standard being introduced in mid-2010. This has big implications for areas like Columbus, Augusta, Athens and Macon. Specific counties in these regions were recommended earlier this year by Georgia EPD to be reclassified as non-attainment areas for ground-level ozone. The designation process for these areas was slated to conclude in March of 2010, but has now been moved to 2011. With the extra time afforded them, commuters, employers and schools in these areas can do more to put programs in place to improve air quality. But the fact that the clock is now ticking a little slower should not become an excuse for complacency. Through its partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation, The Clean Air Campaign is ready to help more organizations in these locales. Call us.
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Good Works Garnering Accolades
Some of the best work to curb traffic and smog is happening right here in Georgia. In the past couple of months, The Clean Air Campaign and its partners have been recognized nationally by the Association for Commuter Transportation and within the state by Conserve Georgia for our efforts in the shared pursuit of clean air and less traffic. But we certainly couldn't have earned these accolades without help from the legions of commuters and employers like you who have taken action. A thunderous round of applause for YOU. You're part of the solution that is eliminating 1.6 million miles of vehicle travel and keeping 800 tons of pollution out of the air we breathe EACH DAY. But we know there's more work we can do together ... read on for another idea about how you can help even more.
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Clean Commuting: Always in Fashion
The Clean Air Campaign's mainstay $3 a day incentive that encourages current drive-alone commuters to make the switch had a huge year in 2008, bolstered by skyrocketing gas prices and an awakening among many commuters that using alternatives to driving alone makes sense. That was then. This is now. Falling prices at the pump ($2.30/gallon is now a steal when compared with the $4 we shelled out last year), combined with the aftershock of the recession and pressure being felt within the labor market are a few reasons that new participation in The Clean Air Campaign's incentives programs has slowed (though research findings show 74% of "graduates" from the $3 incentive program last year were still clean commuting 18-24 months after their incentive was exhausted). To spice things up a little, we are taking a cue from other businesses looking to drum up patronage. The Clean Air Campaign is awarding a fun t-shirt to the next 2,000 commuters to sign up for the $3 a day incentive program. Get the scoop here and tell all your friends and co-workers who drive alone about this limited-time offer. You can be more than a clean commuter. You can become an ambassador for clean commuting.