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Metro Atlanta Meets Federal Air Quality Standards

Tuesday, September 21, 2004  Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774


ATLANTA , GA – The air in metropolitan Atlanta now meets the federal one-hour ozone air quality standard and as a result, the state of Georgia is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to declare the region in attainment.

     "This is excellent news for everyone living in the metropolitan Atlanta area," said Governor Sonny Perdue.  "This proves that the state's efforts to improve air quality have been effective and citizens should be commended for their help in reaching this goal."

      The 13-county metro area has been designated a non-attainment area for ozone. Under federal requirements, ozone concentrations are measured over one-hour periods from April through October. Levels tend to rise from May to September, when Atlanta's typically hot, humid weather combines with vehicle emissions and industrial sources of pollution to increase ground-level ozone.

     During the 2004 season, the Atlanta metro area recorded just one day during which ozone levels exceeded the one-hour standard. The standard is a measurement used to determine at what point air quality becomes unhealthy. Ozone levels in 2003 also exceeded the one-hour standard just one day, and seven days during 2002. 

     To reach attainment, the one-hour standard cannot be exceeded more than once at any given air quality monitor per year averaged over a three-year period.  The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) measures air quality at 11 monitors in 10 metro Atlanta counties.

     EPD has taken action to improve air quality across the region.  This includes:

•        Required sales of low sulfur gasoline

•        Vehicle emissions testing

•        A ban on open burning

•        Tougher emission control requirements for coal-fired power plants

      "While it's apparent the controls are working, it's also important to note that future improvements in air quality depend on commuter behavior," said EPD Director Carol A. Couch.  "This includes a willingness to use car pools, van pools, and mass transit.  Employers also have helped with commitments to teleworking and staggered work hours for their employees."

     Attainment of the one-hour standard means metro Atlanta can move forward with work on achieving the more stringent eight-hour ozone air quality standard.  The EPA adopted the eight-hour standard based on medical evidence that human health is adversely affected by longer periods of exposure to lower levels of ozone.