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Metro Atlanta Air Quality Shows Dramatic Improvement

Thursday, June 16, 2005  Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774


Area in Attainment with the 1-Hour Ozone Standard for the First Time Since 1978

ATLANTA – Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that the Atlanta area has been redesignated as in attainment with the 1-hour air quality standard for ozone (smog) by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

“Metro Atlanta has made significant progress in improving its air quality and today we have reached a clean air milestone,” said Governor Sonny Perdue.  “This progress is the result of hard work and great cooperation among local, state, and federal agencies, private partners and millions of Georgians who live and work in the metro Atlanta region.”

The EPA has also approved a maintenance plan for the Atlanta area which demonstrates how the state will maintain attainment of the standard.  EPA's decision to redesignate the area to attainment is based on air quality monitoring data for 2002 through the 2004 ozone season.

“I commend state and local officials, as well as the residents of the Atlanta area, who have been working together since 1978 to reach this milestone,” said EPA Regional Administrator Jimmy Palmer.  “All of us, especially state and local governments, must continue to work together on a regional basis to address air quality challenges. This redesignation demonstrates a significant decrease in ozone concentrations in the Atlanta metropolitan area, which will help many people breathe easier.  Now efforts can be focused on achieving the additional improvements needed to meet the more protective 8-hour ozone and fine particulate standards.”

Ground-level ozone is a primary component of smog.  Smog is formed when a mixture of air pollutants is baked in the hot summer sun.  These pollutants are released from cars and factories.  Ozone can cause a variety of respiratory problems, including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest pain.  Asthmatics, children and older adults are especially at risk. However, even healthy people may suffer adverse health effects when ozone concentrations are high.

The state of Georgia recognizes that improvements in metro Atlanta air quality have a positive impact on public health and the economy throughout north Georgia .  Therefore, the state has adopted a broad strategy to improve air quality, including taking following steps:

  • Reducing air pollution from motor vehicles by requiring vehicle emissions testing and the sale of low sulfur (cleaner burning) gasoline in most of north Georgia .  Georgia is the only state outside of California to adopt its own low sulfur gasoline.
  • Increased partnership with industry, including significant investment from Georgia Power to lower the emissions on their coal-fired power plants.
  • Changing commuter habits by encouraging car and vanpools, use of mass transit, staggered work hours and teleworking.

“We have taken action to improve the region's air quality, and attainment of the one-hour standard is evidence that the state's strategy is working,” said Georgia EPD Director Carol Couch.  “It's also important to note that this mission was accomplished during a period of tremendous population growth.  We want to recognize the citizens as well as business and industry for their cooperation in helping the state achieve this important goal for air quality.”

The Atlanta 1-hour ozone attainment area consists of the following counties: Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, Dekalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Paulding, and Rockdale.  More information relevant to this final rule may be found on the EPA's Region 4 website at .