Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Metro Area Now in "Attainment"

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced their acceptance of a 10-year Maintenance Plan for the Tacoma-Pierce County Fine Particle nonattainment area (aka “Smoke Reduction Zone”), and announced the area will be re-designated to “attainment” with the daily federal air quality standard for fine particle pollution. 

Thank you all for your contributions to get Pierce County to this healthy air milestone.   Some of you may recall that attainment is a long process, including two 10-year maintenance plans.  While this milestone is important, there is still have more work to maintain clean, healthy air in Pierce County and prevent backsliding.  For wood smoke, this work includes the actions identified:  ensuring old, uncertified wood stoves are removed from the area, and enhancing both the education and enforcement of air quality burn bans so that more people follow them. 

Below is a joint statement from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and the Department of Ecology that addressing questions about EPA’s announcement.  If you have any questions about the redesignation or 10-year maintenance plan, please feel free to contact Craig Kenworthy at (206) 689-4004 or Kathy Strange at (206)689-4095. 

EPA’s redesignation of the area will be effective next month.  We would like celebrate together, and recognize your contributions to this milestone at an informal March gathering.  Please stay tuned for an email invitation soon.

EPA Updates Smoke Reduction Zone Designation

TACOMA, WA – Efforts to reduce unhealthy fine particle pollution in the Tacoma/Pierce County Smoke Reduction Zone area reached a milestone today when the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) approved a 10-year action plan and announced the area will be re-designated as in “attainment” with federal air quality standards.  In 2009, the EPA listed the Smoke Reduction Zone as a nonattainment area for violating health-based federal air quality standards for fine particle pollution in colder winter months, mostly due to wood smoke. Nonattainment carries economic, business and health impacts.

“This is an important step, but our work is not done,” said Craig Kenworthy, Executive Director of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. “We must continue to maintain healthy air quality in the area in order to stay in federal attainment.”

A task force made up of Tacoma and Pierce County leaders, wood burners and community members assembled in 2011 to develop a roadmap for returning the area into attainment. Their recommendations became the action plan for Puget Sound Clean Air and other local agencies:
     Use incentives to help residents replace their polluting, uncertified wood stoves and inserts.
     Increase overall compliance with burn bans by enhancing and increasing enforcement.
     Implement a Stove Rule prohibiting uncertified wood burning devices after September 30, 2015, in the Smoke Reduction Zone only (residents who qualify may obtain an exemption if their uncertified wood stove is their only adequate source of heat).
     Execute an ambitious outreach and education campaign to help the public comply with burn bans and remove old, polluting uncertified devices.

“The removal of old, polluting, uncertified wood stoves is part of the EPA-approved plan,” continued Kenworthy. “Without it, we run the risk of returning to levels of fine particle pollution that are above the health-based standard.”

The Washington Department of Ecology worked in partnership with Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to submit a plan to the EPA that outlines how to keep the area in attainment for the coming 10 years.

“Meeting air quality standards is vital to public health,” said Stu Clark, air quality program manager for the Washington Department of Ecology. “We’ll continue to remain focused on air quality and meeting the federal standards.”

Multiple local agencies and jurisdictions came together to implement the recommendations of the task force. “Ultimately," concluded Kenworthy, "re-designation was possible because Pierce County residents followed burn bans and removed their old uncertified stoves.”  

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