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Friday, December 21, 2018

DEC Does Wildfire Smoke
Monitoring for NYS Residents

Adirondack High Peaks viewed from North Elba

This Month’s Topics:

  • Monitoring Air Quality
  • Environmental Legacy
  • Celebrating 40 Years of Acid Rain Research
  • DAR Rulemaking
  • Dates to Remember
  • AQI Alerts for Respiratory Health
Banner photo credit: CathyJo Rogers, “Adirondack High Peaks, North Elba, NY.”

Monitoring Air Quality for Your Health

New York has your back by protecting citizens from harmful air pollutants. With year-round Air Quality Index scalemonitoring of criteria pollutants, and ozone and particulate matter forecasting, DEC provides precise air quality readings to help ensure clean air for all. If the Air Quality Index (AQI) reaches unhealthy levels during events like wildfires, DEC will issue an advisory to notify residents to take precautions to stay safe when outside.
During the summer of 2002, wildfire smoke from Quebec caused very poor air quality throughout the state and much of the east coast. Even Hazecam photos of wildfire smokeWhiteface Mountain experienced an AQI level of 240, making the air “very unhealthy” (in the purple range by today’s standards). When the AQI reaches the orange level or higher, people with respiratory problems or heart disease, the elderly and children are most at risk and are advised to stay indoors. In 2002, various cities throughout the state exceeded safe particulate matter levels until the fires began to die down and the wind dispersed the smoke.
This year, California has seen some of the deadliest and most destructive wildfires on record. Thick smoke covered large areas of that state, including big cities like San Francisco and Sacramento. Air quality levels in these areas were among the worst in the world as the smoke plumes lingered close to the ground. With the California AQI readings exceeding 300 at times, residents in surrounding areas were advised to wear protective gear, like masks and respirators, and to stay indoors.
Continuous air monitoring is essential for ensuring the public’s safety during poor air quality events like these. To learn more about the air quality in your area, check out ways to “stay informed about your air quality” below.
Photo credit: Camnet hazecams

George H.W. Bush’s Environmental Legacy

Much is written about Bush 41’s masterful foreign relations policies and actions but, in New President George H.W. BushYork and many other states, his support for protecting the environment was substantial and notable for its enduring effectiveness. The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments were astonishing in their scope and reach, pushed by the president and Congress, each on different sides of politics. While such team work seems rare these days, it shows that action is possible when solving overwhelming problems such as declining environmental quality.
The 1970 Clean Air Act was important but weak, as evidenced by the continuing poor air quality lingering decades after it was enacted. With New York governors and policy makers in the lead, the federal government began to accept the demands of the states and ultimately crafted and passed the Amendments. Air toxics and ozone depletion became genuine concerns. Acid deposition landed squarely in its own major subchapter in the Act: Title IV-A Acid Deposition Control.
Wind turbinesNew York had already taken a leadership role in addressing acid rain. In 1984, Governor Mario M. Cuomo signed the State Acid Deposition Control Act into law to demonstrate to the rest of the nation that New York will regulate its own fossil-fueled industries to curtail acidic destruction in the Adirondack and Catskill mountains and to provide a template for federal action. As designed, this critical piece of legislation further spread to other northeast states and the rest of the country. Since the passage of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments and the programs that followed, New York has seen vastly lower acid depositions levels.
New York’s longstanding environmental leadership continues today as we face enormous challenges in climate change and its impacts, as well as the constant struggle to protect citizens from daily airborne contaminants. We will benefit from President Bush’s influential support for years to come, but will need to remain vigilant and proactive in addressing the threat and impacts of air pollution.
Photo credit: Mark Webster, “Steel Winds, Lackawanna, NY.”

Celebrating 40 Years of Acid Rain Research

The National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP), is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. NADP is a collective that brings together government organizations, universities and other researchers who measure air pollution and wet depositionAcid deposition collector(acid rain) across the nation. It also coordinates and provides analysis for more than 250 sampling sites across North America. DEC joined NADP in 2012 and is responsible for operating 5 of the 18 active NADP sites in New York State.
DEC staff from the Divisions of Air Resources (DAR) and Fish & Wildlife attended NADP’s Annual Scientific Symposium held in Albany this November. At the symposium, attendees enjoyed talks about cutting edge sampling techniques, air pollution trends and acid rain research, as well as a lively poster session at which DAR staff displayed research posters.
Through organizations like NADP, DEC is able to collaborate across state and national borders to work on complex air pollution issues. Places like the Adirondack Park are seeing vast improvements in air and water quality, enabling fish and wildlife to return to previously acidified waters. Habitat improvements like this are thanks, in part, to NADP because of its ability to facilitate collaboration among researchers, policy makers and governmental organizations to effect large scale change. Congratulations on 40 years of great work improving our air quality NADP!

DAR Rulemaking:


Dates to Remember:

  • December 5: World Soil Day – Soil helps stabilize the environment by filtering chemicals before they reach our air and water.
  • December 11: CERCLA of 1980 was enacted – a major environmental regulation that provides a Federal “Superfund” for cleanup of hazardous waste sites.
  • December 21: First Day of Winter – Remember that temperature inversions can trap air pollution close to the ground in winter.
  • December 31: Federal Clean Air Act 1970 – The enactment authorized federal and state regulations to limit emissions from stationary sources and mobile sources.

Stay Informed about Your Air Quality

New York's ozone season runs from April through September. DEC publishes ground-level ozone forecasts during ozone season, and particulate matter pollution forecasts year-round using the Air Quality Index (AQI). DEC sends out an air quality alert when there is a high AQI value, which indicates polluted air. Individuals with pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular conditions and people who exercise outdoors should take caution during an air quality alert. Find out if an Air Quality Alert is in effect by calling the toll-free Ozone Hotline: 1-800-535-1345.
The AQI can be accessed in 3 ways:

On behalf of the Air Mail! team, we wish our readers a happy holiday season and a clean air 2019!

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