Air quality rules changes could affect SD's compliance

By City News Service

New air quality standards being considered by the federal government could drastically increase the number of days in which San Diego County is out of compliance, the county air pollution control officer said Wednesday.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing tighter limits for ground-level ozone, a chief component of smog, and is scheduled to issue the final standards at the end of this month.

The current standard of 0.075 parts per million of ozone is expected to be lowered to somewhere around 0.065 ppm.

Robert Kard, of the San Diego Air Pollution Control District, told the Board of Supervisors that the county would exceed the new limit on 52 occasions per year, based on a three-year average of area reporting stations.

That compares to the current annual average of “exceedances” of seven, Kard said.

By far the worst offender is the East County foothills community of Alpine, which sits right in the atmospheric inversion layer that holds air pollution in place, Kard said. Alpine’s worst ozone days only register as “moderate’’" on the APCD’s scale, however.

The number of days that San Diego County has exceeded safe ozone levels has dropped from about 160 in 1989 to the seven reported in recent years, but levels of the pollutant will need to be reduced even further to avoid future EPA penalties, according to Kard.

He said about 40 percent of the region’s ozone is created by “mobile sources.”

“We have to get cars off the road,” Kard said.