Local News

High Ozone Levels Could Jeopardize Federal Funding In The Future

Posted August 18, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Highozone levelsare not just unhealthy, they can be costly for North Carolina.

Ozone levels are taken every minute of the day at the WRAL-TV tower in Garner, at 200 feet, 400 feet and 1,420 feet.

Crews from theDivision of Air Qualitymeasure the ozone levels constantly. The levels reflect a combination of heat, sunlight and wind speed.

High temperatures, a blazing sun, and still air have combined for potentially record-breaking ozone levels recently. Air quality officials are concerned.

There have been seven code red ozone days this year, and the chance for more continues until October. The Triangle ranks second in the state behind Charlotte for air quality problems.

Next year, air quality officials will take a three-year air quality average, and they are afraid North Carolina will not make the cut, particularly since theEPAadopted stricter federal standards for ozone levels.

"We're finding that much of North Carolina, we think about half of the counties, will not be meeting this standard," said Tom Mather of the Division of Air Quality.

If North Carolina does not meet federal standards, the results could be costly.

"They can restrict funding for highways and it also can have some implications for our ability to attract new industry," Mather said. "New industries moving into an area that doesn't meet air quality standards have to meet much tougher limits."

State leaders hope to avoid that problem. This year, theGeneral Assemblypassed aclean air billrequiring the use of low sulfur gasoline statewide by 2004. The change is expected to reduce pollutants by 10 percent.

Car inspection and maintenance programs will be stricter, and an inspection project currently in place will be expanded from nine to 48 counties by 2006.