Tough New Air Standards On The Way

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Washoe County health officials say meeting proposed new air quality standards could be difficult and require changes for Truckee Meadows residents.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new
standards for particle pollution - something the Reno area
struggles with every winter, when temperature inversions trap
pollutants in the valleys, turning the air a dirty brown.
EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson described the proposal as a
"next step in the steady march toward cleaner air."
But Duane Sikorski, air quality supervisor for the Washoe
District Health Department, said meeting the proposed standards
could be challenging.
"It's a pretty major change," Sikorski said. "It looks like
we probably won't be in attainment."
One change would impose a daily limit of the smallest particles
to 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air, down from 65 micrograms
set in 1997. For course particles that can be inhaled, the EPA is
proposing a new 24-hour standard of 70 micrograms per cubic meter.
To reduce wintertime air pollution, Washoe County in 1987 began
requiring all new wood-burning stoves to be certified as
clean-burning. The following year, rules were enacted requiring
that older stoves be removed or replaced with certified stoves upon
the sale of a home.
County officials also instituted a daily burn code of green,
yellow and red to discourage or ban wood burning on days when air
quality is poor.
Regulations also have been imposed requiring road sand used on
icy roads to be swept up after storms to prevent dust from rising
into the air.
Still, after record snowstorms last January, particle pollution
resulted in the area's first "red" air quality alert in 10 years.
To meet the tougher standards, Sikorski said some possible
measures could include limiting the time buses and trucks can idle
or reducing the number of homes with wood burning stoves or
But he added that it will probably be a few years before any
such proposals are considered.