KINGSPORT - This is a make-or-break year for Northeast Tennessee's Ozone Action Partnership (OAP).
OAP members told reporters at Eastman's Toy F. Reid Employee Center Monday that ozone levels in Sullivan and Hawkins counties - which were declared non-attainment areas in April 2004 - must meet federal standards by the end of 2007.
"This is the proof-in-the-pudding year," said OAP Chair Bill Sorah, deputy city manager for operations in Bristol, Tenn.
OAP officials said they are hoping lower interstate truck speed limits in Sullivan County and a Tennessee Valley Authority plan to install advanced nitrogen oxide control technology on one boiler at its John Sevier Steam Plant in Hawkins County will play major roles in reducing ozone.
"The Sullivan County Commission took an important step forward in asking the Tennessee Department of Transportation to reduce truck speed limits in an effort to help reduce ozone levels," Sorah said. "Heavy-duty diesels are at the top of the list for nitrogen oxide emissions from transportation. Nitrogen oxides are the primary precursor for ozone formation, which occurs in the atmosphere on warm, sunny days. Studies show that reducing truck speeds by 10 miles an hour could reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 1.65 tons per day."
The air pollution controls at the TVA facility, said Sorah, will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 2 tons per day.
Not meeting federal ozone standards will be bad for economic development, Tennessee Air Pollution Control Board member Steve Gossett said.
"The permitting rules would get a lot more difficult to expand an existing industry or recruit a new industry," Gossett explained.
Sullivan and Hawkins counties were able to defer non-attainment status by entering into early action compacts with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
OAP officials also wanted to call attention to the upcoming start of so-called "Ozone Action Days" (OAD) season beginning on May 1 and lasting until the end of September.
Children, people with lung diseases and heart conditions, the elderly, and active adults are at risk the most when unhealthy air levels occur during an OAD.
Excessive ozone causes irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, inflammation of the lungs, and chest tightness, OAP officials said. On high pollution days, OAP officials said people should monitor the air quality forecast and not exercise between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
"Last year we had a flurry of Ozone Action Days," Gossett said. "A lot of times it gets bad around the end of June. There may be some days in May that it gets bad. Right around June 20 is the longest day of the year."
When an OAD occurs, the Times-News will post a warning on the newspaper's front page. OADs are now being forecast and publicized the day before unhealthy air levels are likely to happen.
For more go to www.ozonet.org or sign up for an air quality forecast from EPA's "Enviroflash" system at www.airnow.gov.