2010 April 30: AZ Maricopa (Pinal County): Maricopa’s air-quality issues called into question

2010 April 30: AZ Maricopa (Pinal County): Maricopa’s air-quality issues called into question
By Michael K. Rich
April 30, 2010
Air-quality expert Mike Sunblom examines air-quality meter.
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In a letter issued in late March by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to the regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, the state leader called for the organization to drop the issue of PM 2.5 non-compliance in Pinal County.

Brewer’s correspondence was in response to a letter the governor received in late December from the EPA, asking for the governor’s recommendation on the non-attainment map for both PM 10 and PM 2.5

PM 10 and PM 2.5 are essentially measurements for particles in the air the EPA tracks through the use of meters.

Both particulate measures are smaller in diameter than a human hair, and the most common source for PM 2.5 is automobile emissions.

In Pinal County there are eight meters; five of them are in the top eight dirtiest in the nation.

The No. 1 offender in these violations, the Cowtown meter, is located just outside of Maricopa and at one time was in violation nearly 222 days in a year’s span. For comparison, the next closest meter has 49 violation days per year.

It is this Cowtown meter that has drawn the governor’s interest.

In her letter to the EPA, Brewer recommended the PM 10 non-attainment area, but stated the data collected for PM 2.5 is invalid and a violation of the organization’s own regulations.

The regulation the governor references states that meters in a hot spot such as the Cowtown meter are only eligible for comparison in the 24-hour standard.

Because this is the only monitoring site where violations of PM 2.5 have been recorded in Pinal County or any nearby areas, the only justifiable designation in regards to PM 2.5 is in attainment, Brewer said.

The governor added that there is overwhelming evidence the exceeding of PM 2.5 in Pinal County is a result of high concentrations of PM 10.

Colleen McKaughan, the associate director for the EPA Air Quality Division, said her organization is in receipt of the governor’s letter and is preparing a response to be issued within the next several weeks.

“This letter will give our position on PM 2.5 in the area and give a technical break down of the violations,” she said.

The agency is scheduled to have the non-attainment maps for both PM 10 and 2.5 completed by August.

From that point, the state will have 18 months to devise a plan to get the area into attainment status within three years.

During this time frame, the state, with the help of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Pinal County and other involved shareholders, will conduct an emissions inventory to determine the causes of meter violations and then work on policies to reduce those emissions. “These policies will determine who is left holding the short end of the stick,” said Donald Gabrielson, the director of Pinal County’s Department of Development Services and Air-quality Control.

Currently, Maricopa is doing its part, according to the city’s development services director, Brent Billingsley. The city hired an air-quality consultant this summer to look into the surrounding air quality in Maricopa. In addition, Billingsley said the city paves more than two miles of dirt road each year. “No one in the state, that I’m aware of, is doing more than that,” he said.

Photo by Jim Williams

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