Report Finds Maryland Counties Continue to Have High Ozone Levels

An April 25 article presents the findings of the American Lung Association’s 2013 “State of the Air” report for Maryland, which grades the ozone and particle pollution levels in the air for states and various counties.  The article notes that many of the tracked Maryland counties received an “F” grade for ozone pollution but did better regarding particulate matter.

The association’s annual State of the Air 2013 report, which uses data compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, shows that [Montgomery County] had 10 days of high ozone, or smog, levels in the three years from 2009 to 2011. That number was high enough to earn it a failing grade, along with Prince George’s, Baltimore, Frederick and several other counties.  …

The Washington, D.C., metropolitan area was ranked as the ninth-most polluted city in the nation for ozone, worse than in the previous year’s report, when it ranked 13th. The area has cut its particle pollution levels since the 2012 report, which corresponds with the national trend, according to the association.

Among the tracked Maryland counties, Garrett County scored the highest with a “C” for ozone pollution, followed by Washington County and Baltimore City which earned a “D” grade.  All other tracked counties received an “F.”  The highest grade for particulate matter went to Harford County (“A”), followed by Anne Arundel, Montgomery, and Washington Counties (“B”).

Several environmental groups were also quoted in the article on the need to strengthen local and federal air quality standards:

Maryland can continue to improve its pollution levels by strengthening the permitting process for coal-burning power plants, of which there are three surrounding Washington, D.C., said Diana Dascalu-Joffe, senior attorney with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

But despite state laws such as the Healthy Air Act, which required power plants to phase in reductions in pollutant emissions starting in 2009, Maryland remains susceptible to air pollution drifting from other states, underscoring the need for strong federal pollution regulations, said Tommy Landers, director of the nonprofit Environment Maryland.

A May 1 Maryland Department of the Environment announcement states that Maryland’s air quality continues to improve but also acknowledges that much of Maryland’s air pollution is generated in other states:

The results show continued reductions in the amount of fine particle, or soot, pollution in counties throughout the State. Continued reductions were also seen in the amount of sulfur dioxide pollution and in mercury emissions from Maryland’s largest power plants. While Maryland has not yet met the federal health standard for ozone pollution, statistics show a decrease in recent years in the number of bad air days in comparison to hot weather days that can increase ozone levels. …

However, the science also demonstrates clearly that Maryland cannot fully meet air quality standards that protect public health unless air pollution generated outside of our State’s borders is controlled. Research indicates that states upwind of Maryland are responsible for as much as 70 percent of Maryland’s current air quality problem. Therefore, reducing emissions in upwind states is the key to solving our air quality problems.