Representatives of Ohio's Environmental Protection Agency had some good news for Washington County and the Parkersburg-Marietta area during a public hearing at the county library Thursday.
"We're asking the U.S. EPA to recognize that Washington County has now attained the 1997 federal fine particulate standard, which is a good thing, as attainment can have an economic impact on the community," said Mary McCarron, spokesperson for OEPA.
She said Washington County, which is part of the Parkersburg-Marietta region, now meets the fine particulate matter standard set by the U.S. EPA, triggering the Ohio EPA to ask the federal agency for a redesignation of attainment of the standard for the local area.
"We'll submit the request to the U.S. EPA who will consider the data and, if they agree, will publish the redesignation in the Federal Register, which will make it official," McCarron said.
Southeastern Ohio Port Authority Executive Director Terry Tamburini said that's good news.
"When we're listed as a non-attainment area for the air standard, as we have been, people are often afraid to invest in the local economy," he said. "In fact, the Fibrox company was ready to locate near the Eramet Marietta facility a couple of years ago, but because this area was listed as non-attainment the company decided to move to Jackson County, W.Va., which was designated as an attainment area."
For information about the Ohio EPA's proposal to the U.S. EPA for redesignation of the Parkersburg-Marietta area as meeting the federal fine particulate standard, visit www.epa.ohio.gov, or call Ohio EPA's Division of Air Pollution Control at (614) 644-2270.
But Tamburini noted the news that Parkersburg-Marietta is now in attainment has come at a price as some local coal-burning facilities have cut back or closed, including the Gorsuch Power Station that ceased production in 2010, idling more than 90 workers.
American Electric Power's Muskingum River Plant is also cutting back production which will impact 150 jobs, Tamburini said.
He added that other local companies like Eramet work hard to reduce emissions to help meet the EPA standards.
A recent OEPA news release explained that air quality data from 2008 to 2010 shows improved air quality and indicates the metropolitan area will be able to maintain compliance with the fine particulate standard for the next 10 years.
"The data is based on computer modeling forecasts, emissions inventories, monitoring and reports that provide us with a look at what the future air quality will be in that area," said Paul Braun, rules coordinator with the OEPA, who attended Thursday's public meeting.
The U.S. EPA national fine particulate standard regulates tiny particulate matter, about one-thirtieth the diameter of a human hair, that can be breathed in and lodge inside the lungs.
Particulate matter has been associated with health issues like heart attacks, chronic bronchitis and asthma attacks, according to the EPA.
McCarron said the comment period on the redesignation request ended Thursday evening. Additional comments will be accepted after that date, but they will not be considered part of the official record.