St. Louis Public Radio News
6:23 pm
Fri May 14, 2010

Tougher air quality standards could have big repercussions for St. Louis

St. Louis, MO – Mid May signals the unofficial beginning of ozone season for St. Louis and this year the region could have many more air quality violations over previous years.

Many St. Louisans are familiar with the Clean Air Partnership's color-coded forecasting system, with green being good and red being the worst.

The EPA plans to lower the national standard for ground-level ozone later this summer. When that happens Susannah Fuchs of the American Lung Association says the region will have a lot more Red ozone warnings.

"That is going to happen for sure," said Fuchs, "and people are going to be surprised to see that there are categories past red and we'll probably get in them. But is it impossible to achieve compliance? Absolutely not."

The current standard is set at 75 parts per billion and the EPA is expected to lower it down to the 60's.

That level would likely put St. Louis and other regions across the state out of air-quality compliance.

But, DNR spokesman Jud Slivka says the state is still a long way off from implementing tougher pollution controls.

"We try to not engage in hypotheticals here," says Slivka. "We've looked at things in a kind of back of the napkin way. But until we get a hard number, it's a rigorous intellectual exercise and we'd much rather see a hard-and-fast number before we begin to engage in it."

The DNR is the agency charged with enforcing the EPA's guidelines.

Last year St. Louis exceeded the threshold for hazardous ozone levels 5 times.