First Urban 'Serious Area' Particulate Matter Plan Approved by EPA

EPA approves Arizona's particulate matter plan, created to bring Phoenix air quality into compliance with federal standards by 2006.

During a speech at the Economic Club of Phoenix late last week, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Wayne Nastri announced that the agency will approve Arizona's particulate matter plan. The plan was designed to bring Phoenix air quality into compliance with federal standards. The Phoenix metropolitan area is currently noncompliant for both the 24-hour and annual health- based particulate matter standards.

"Clean air is everyone's goal and this plan is proof of how federal, state and local partnerships can work together to solve health problems," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman, who attended the speech. "The Phoenix area is making great strides in reducing airborne particulates and EPA looks forward to working with the community as we continue those efforts to ensure that this new plan cuts air pollution, improves public health for asthmatics, children and other sensitive individuals and helps to bring cleaner air to the Phoenix area."

The primary cause of particulate pollution in the Phoenix area comes from windblown dust from construction sites, road building activities, agricultural fields, unpaved parking lots and roads, disturbed vacant lots and paved road dust. Under this compliance-based plan, Phoenix must implement control measures for all significant sources of airborne particulates, such as paving, adding gravel or stabilizing the surface with water or other dust suppressants. Farmers will apply best management practices to reduce fugitive dust from agricultural fields, and $16.5 million of federal highway funds will be available to reduce fugitive dust from both paved and unpaved roads.

"Once again, Arizona proves itself to be a national leader in developing controls that will achieve healthful air quality. I am grateful that [Whitman] came here personally to acknowledge our commitment and hard work, which would not have been possible without the leadership, investment and sacrifice of our farmers, the business community, and all levels of government," Gov. Jane Dee Hull said.

The small particles can affect breathing, aggravate existing respiratory and cardiovascular disease, alter the body's defense systems against foreign materials, and damage sensitive lung tissue, contributing to cancer and premature death. The elderly, children, and people with chronic lung disease, influenza, and asthma are especially sensitive to high levels of particulate matter.

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set national health standards for pollutants that threaten public health and the environment. When an area violates a health-based standard, the Clean Air Act requires that the area be designated as non-attainment (noncompliant) for that pollutant. Arizona was required to develop a plan to reduce particulate matter in the Phoenix area to healthy levels.

The plan, which was signed today, is designed to bring Phoenix air quality into compliance with federal standards by Dec. 31, 2006. The Phoenix area has already met the health-based standards for 1-hour ozone and carbon monoxide.

Information on the plan is available at: www.epa.gov/region09/air.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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