Tuesday, August 19, 2008

EPA Says Green Bay, Madison, Milwaukee And Waukesha All Flunk Particulate Air Quality Standards

As I had been telling you on this blog since Friday, federal officials were getting ready to name expanded areas in the state that do not meet new air standards for hazardous particulate matter in the air we all breathe, and the list is coming out now:

Among the major population centers and their counties that are adding to the dirty air problems in Wisconsin - - Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay and Waukesha, among others.

Says the Associated Press:

'The Environmental Protection Agency said its review found Brown, Columbia, Dane, Racine, Waukesha and Milwaukee counties have unacceptable levels of fine particulate matter in the air or contribute to problems in neighboring areas."

That's a significant portion of the state and its population, and throws into stunning relief the state and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce efforts to get the feds to roll back air quality standards in the heavily-populated Milwaukee region - - an existing non-attainment air quality area.

[Update: Dane County announces a plan to combat particulate pollution. Details here. Since three of these counties - - Waukesha, Milwaukee and Racine are in their respective regions, both SEWRPC and the M-7 collaborative should immediately craft plans similar to that announced Tuesday in and for Dane County.]

The growing dangers presented by growing areas of non-attainment in Wisconsin also underscores the contradiction in state planning and spending that will add 127 miles of new highway lanes to the southeastern Wisconsin freeway system, where more diesel engines, and brakes on vehicles of all kinds, will throw harmful particles into the air and deep into your lungs.

$1.9 billion in added highway building and new lane expansion is scheduled to begin in January, for eight years on I-94 right through Milwaukee and Racine Counties, to the Illinois state line.

Related interstate rebuilding and expansion projects will also extend from the Jefferson County line east to and across Waukesha County and into Milwaukee County, eventually hooking up to the expanded Marquette Interchange.

Does anyone think building more highways reduces air pollution?

Given the state's progress towards alternative-source power research and generation, Wisconsin could be among the nation's leaders in pollution and greenhouse reduction if not for the political clout of the highway lobby.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has included this language in recent air quality alerts it issued due to unsafe levels of particulate matter:

"These fine particles come primarily from combustion sources, such as power plants, factories and other industrial sources, vehicle exhaust, and wood fires.

"The Air Quality Index is currently in the orange level, which is considered unhealthy for people in sensitive groups. People in those sensitive groups include those with heart or lung disease, asthma, older adults and children.

"When an orange advisory for particle pollution is issued, people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous activities.

"People with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis, and heart disease should pay attention to cardiac symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms.

"Fine particle pollution deposits itself deep into the lungs and cannot easily be exhaled. People who are at risk are particularly vulnerable after several days of high particle pollution exposure."


Joshua Skolnick said...

Would not promoting electrified rail, or even biodiesel powered trains in the interim, walkable communities, eliminating the majority of fossil fuel landscaping (read, turf lawns), and shortening the work week to 4 days, while penalizing waste and fossil fuel consumption through the tax code put the brakes on this pollution?

And, they want to build more highway lanes, which is ridiculous on its face due to peak oil (despite the oil industry's attempts to pull out all the stops to get McCain and Republican congressmen elected by lowering oil prices before the election, so we conveniently forget about this issue). Its time we show leadership in this state, not following the fossil fool paradigm of this "administration" and Bush term III (McSame). Green jobs would put us ahead of the curve and help solve the air quality standards to boot.

Anonymous said...

I haven't been able to find the specifics of the report.

Leaf burning is still going on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays every fall in Brookfield. Is this a major source?

James Rowen said...

To Anonymous: I will put this site up tomorrow: