Adeq: Local Air Improving

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Despite rapid growth, tests confirm the Rim country's air quality is improving.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has made a formal request to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to designate the Payson area in compliance for small dust particles. The area has been considered a non-attainment area and therefore out of compliance since 1993.

According to Theresa Pella, air quality planning section manager for the Air Quality Division of ADEQ, the dust particles referred to as PM10 because they are smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter are the ones that receive close scrutiny because larger particles can be flushed out of the body.

"High levels of particulate pollution can pose a serious health threat, especially to children, the elderly and people with lung or heart disease," said Nancy Wrona, ADEQ's Air Quality Division director.

Beginning today (Friday, Jan. 18), copies of a proposed plan for managing particulate matter in the Payson area will be available for review at Payson Public Library, 328 N. McLane Road; Payson Town Clerk's Office, 303 N. Beeline; and the ADEQ Library, 3033 N. Central Avenue in Phoenix. While EPA recently published a finding that the Payson area achieved attainment for PM10 by the Dec. 31 Clean Air Act deadline, that act requires that a maintenance plan be submitted to EPA before an area can be redesignated.

As required, the proposed plan summarizes the progress of the area in attaining the national PM10 air quality standard, demonstrates that all Clean Air Act requirements for attainment have been met and includes a plan to assure continued attainment for at least 10 years.

The 30-page plan produced for the Payson area takes a two-pronged approach, according to Pella.

"It details what Payson looked like in 1995, and it examines the baseline year of 1999 to project how the future is going to look," she said.

According to the document, "Air quality monitors ... recorded exceedances ... on eleven days in 1989 and 1990. On Dec. 21, 1993, EPA designated the central portion of Gila County that includes the community of Payson as a moderate PM10 non-attainment area, effective Jan. 20, 1994."

If an area records more than one violation over a three-year period, it is considered a non-attainment area, according to Pella. Between 1998 and 2000, the plan says, there were no exceedances recorded.

Sources that contributed to the non-attainment designation included unpaved roads, vacant lots, wood stoves and industrial sources like the downtown sawmill.

"The plan gets into descriptions of what has been done to address these problems, including detailing how many miles of roads were paved by the town and county, how many miles were stabilized, the plans to address vacant lots, and the ordinance the town adopted mandating that wood stoves meet EPA standards," Pella said.

While Kaibab Industries closed down its sawmill, the wood stove problem has been more difficult to address.

"The town ordinance regulates new construction, but there are a lot of homes with existing wood stoves," Pella said. "That's tough to enforce, but there's no need to go there now."

ADEQ maintains a fixed monitoring station at 204 W. Aero Drive that will remain in operation for at least the next 10 years to assure continued compliance.

"We've had a station in Payson for many years, and we need to continue to monitor air quality there," Pella said. "Every six days somebody goes out there and lifts the filters and sends the data to the lab."

A public hearing on the proposed plan will be held at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, in the council chambers at Payson Town Hall, 303 N. Beeline Highway. While ADEQ will accept public comments at the hearing, written comments will also be accepted from Jan. 18 to Feb. 20.

"The hearing and public comment period are requirements under the federal regulations," Pella said. "It allows interested parties to look at the documentation we've included, the things we've done, and to comment on any aspect of the plan."

Written comments should be addressed to ADEQ, Attn: Dena Konopka, 3003 N. Central Avenue, T5109B, Phoenix, AZ 85012-2905, or e-mail: konopka.dena@ev.state.az.us.

For more information, write Pella at the above address, e-mail: pella.theresa@ev.state.az. us, or call (602) 207-2375.

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