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Asheville Air Pollution Levels set Record Low!

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(From the Asheville Citizen-Times 10/25/03)

Summer air pollution level sets record low

By Julie Ball, Staff Writer

ASHEVILLE - Levels of the harmful pollutant, ground-level ozone, were as low as they've been in 15 years in Buncombe County this summer, city and county leaders announced Friday at a news conference.

The numbers mean Asheville has avoided being designated as an area failing to meet new tougher ozone standards. The Environmental Protection Agency will begin implementing the new standards next year.

Earlier this month, Tom Mather, with the North Carolina Division of Air Quality, said the state will recommend Asheville be taken off the list of so-called "nonattainment areas." EPA makes the final designations. The designation carries with it additional restrictions on new polluting industries and requirements that air emissions be factored in transportation planning.

Air pollution emissions in Buncombe County have decreased significantly since 1990, according to the Western North Carolina Regional Air Quality Agency. At the Progress Energy plant, emissions of nitrogen oxide, a key ingredient in ozone, are down 77 percent since 1997, according to Nancy Thompson, Progress Energy spokeswoman. Further reductions are planned under the state's Clean Smokestacks Act.

But weather may have been a bigger factor in lowering ozone levels. Ozone forms in sunlight, and Western North Carolina saw a rainy summer.

"Our job is not over," Asheville Mayor Charles Worley said of the lower levels.

Worley said a group working to develop local measures to curb air pollution will continue that work even without the possibility of a nonattainment designation.

Contact Ball at 232-5851 or [email protected]

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Unfortunely Asheville's geography is not coducive to clean air. Asheville sits in a bowl surrounded by mountains, keeping the air trapped. IF Asheville continues to grow then they will be put on the EPA Non Attainment list...

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