But the city is still walking a tightrope between maintaining acceptable levels of ozone and exceeding the EPA standard, which requires an average of fewer than .075 parts per million of ozone particles during an 8-hour period. If the city has four days with 8-hour averages above that limit, it will have to produce a plan to reduce ozone that could cost taxpayers and businesses millions of dollars.
The city already exceeded the standard twice in April when winds blew smoke into the area from controlled burns in the Flint Hills and wildfires in Oklahoma. Mayor Carl Brewer has formally requested that the EPA not count that data since it was beyond the city’s control. A ruling on that may not come until the end of the year, said Kay Johnson, director of the city’s office of environmental initiatives.
If the EPA throws the April readings out, Independence Day will be the city’s first day exceeding the standard. But Johnson said that unofficial readings from the air quality monitor in the city of Sedgwick shows that July 5 may have also exceeded the standard. Ozone often goes above the standard for one day in August and often another day in September, Johnson said.
Further complicating the city’s situation is the anticipated stricter ozone standards. Johnson said EPA officials told her those new standards will likely be announced at the end of July.
For months, environmental officials have been awaiting an EPA decision on a new ozone threshold that is expected to fall between .06 parts per million and .07 parts per million. If a stricter standard is adopted the city appears poised to exceed the new standard and be forced to create a plan to cut down on emissions.
But Johnson said the city could get exceptionally wet weather, which would help limit ozone. And she said that everyone can help keep ozone levels down.
Here are some tips offered by the city:
- Refuel your car after 6 p.m.
- Cut your grass after 6 p.m.
- Keep lawnmowers and other small engines properly tuned.
- Conserve electricity, don’t over cool (78 degrees in summer) or heat buildings (68 degrees in winter), turn off lights and appliances, use Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs).
- Look for the energy star label when purchasing computers, TVs, VCRs, appliances, lighting, etc.
- Drive less; keep your car well maintained, and your tires properly inflated.
- Don’t idle your vehicle engine unnecessarily. Turn off engine.
- Purchase low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles.
- Combine your errands into one trip.
- Bike or walk when possible (health benefits are the bonus).
- To protect your health, avoid strenuous outdoor activities when ozone levels are high. Use the Air Quality Index to check Wichita’s air quality first.