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Residents urged to be aware of ground level ozone, take preventive measures

Sonny Long

By Sonny Long
June 8, 2011 at 1:08 a.m.

AIR QUALITY INDEX TABLE

Hot, dry summer weather affects not only the ground we walk on, but also the air we breathe.

That's the message Air Victoria wants to make sure residents understand during ozone season that runs through October.

"Summer weather is very taxing on the environment, including air quality," said Marie Lester, environmental programs coordinator for the city of Victoria and Air Victoria. "It all has to do with the weather. Hot, dry days and the right pressure system can pull in air from other areas."

Lester said most of Victoria's ground ozone comes from the east.

"The exact same problems they have in Houston, a lot of that comes over here," she said. "Ground level ozone is the same thing as smog. We've had brown clouds, a few hazy days sometimes."

Lester explained that of the ozone that is generated here the majority of it comes from car and truck emissions.

"The more people drive, the more they are polluting the air," Lester said. "Keeping your vehicle maintained is very important, too."

The Environmental Protection Agency has set the minimum standard for ozone at 75 parts per billion, and Victoria is at 66. The reading is an average calculated during a three-year period, Lester explained.

"We are close to non-attainment. We went out of attainment one time years ago," said Lester.

The EPA is also considering changing the standard, dropping the acceptable level to somewhere in the 60 to 70 range, Lester said.

Those affected most by high ozone readings are the very young, very old or those with respiratory illness, Lester said.

"Even if you are healthy, you may feel like you have sinus problems or a headache on high ozone days," Lester said.

Victoria has a voluntary program in place to help protect the ozone and Lester urges residents to use these recommendations that include carpooling and not topping off your gas tank when filling up.

"There is only so much we can do, but every little bit counts," she said.

Ozone action days are designated when the Air Quality Index gets into unhealthy ranges.

In addition to taking actions to reduce ozone, on ozone action days Air Victoria also recommends that sensitive groups stay indoors as much as possible. Residents should also conserve electricity and set air conditioners at a higher temperature.

Air Victoria was formed in the early 2000s and housed at Victoria College. It moved to the city of Victoria's environmental services department in 2004.

It is a state-funded program.

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