EPA’s stricter emission, ozone proposals could be key for Sheboygan’s air quality.  Here are 8 things to know.

EPA’s stricter emission, ozone proposals could be key for Sheboygan’s air quality. Here are 8 things to know.

SHEBOYGAN COUNTY – Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources staff presented updates on Sheboygan County’s air quality at a meeting last week.

The meeting, hosted by citizen group Sheboygan Ozone Reduction Alliance, focused on ozone, particulate matter, recent data and the DNR’s upcoming plans.

Here’s background on the issue and key takeaways from the meeting.

1. High ozone can be harmful to human and environmental health.

The US Environmental Protection Agency designs ground-level ozone as one of six common air pollutants.

It is formed from chemical reactions of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, heat and sunlight in the water.

Children, older adults, individuals with asthma and those engaging in outdoor activities have the highest health risk.

Too much ozone can limit plant growth as well.

2. Sheboygan’s ozone monitoring was split into two regions.

Residents are concerned about Sheboygan County’s “nonattainment” status for ozone levels.

Until 2014, the county had one ozone monitoring site at the Kohler-Andrae State Park shoreline. It has consistently recorded among the highest levels in the state, according to the DNR.

At that point, a second testing site was added 3 miles inland along State 42 in Haven. The intention was to show how ozone levels change, usually decreasing, farther from the lakeshore.

The exterior of the air quality monitor at the Sheboygan County Highway Department as seen, Thursday March 9, 2023, in Sheboygan, Wis.

The exterior of the air quality monitor at the Sheboygan County Highway Department as seen, Thursday March 9, 2023, in Sheboygan, Wis.

This decision was challenged by the environmental nonprofit Clean Wisconsin, and a federal court determined the distance was “arbitrary” in 2020.

The 3-mile inland site remained, but the EPA expanded the nonattainment area approximately 0.3 miles inland in response.

3. Data show lakeshore region, including Sheboygan, still exceeds federal standards.

The county, as a whole, failed to meet the 2008 national eight-hour ozone standard of 75 parts per billion until 2020.

When the EPA lowered the standard to 70 ppb in 2015, the lakeshore region was in nonattainment while the inland region was not.

State data for 2021 shows there have been small ozone decreases across the state, notably in lakeshore regions.

Five of 13 lakeshore monitors still exceeded 70 ppb in 2021, Katie Praedel, DNR’s air monitoring section chief, said.

Inland or Far North sites didn’t exceed the standard.

While Kohler-Andrae site values ​​had a 28% overall decrease, it has continued to test above the eight-hour ozone standard, according to the DNR’s 2022 air quality trends report.

The Haven site has maintained or met levels lower than 70 ppb.

Data over a 20 year-period showing eight-hour ozone design values ​​at Sheboygan's Haven and Kohler-Andrae air quality monitoring sites in relation to National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).  Design values ​​are based on a three-year average of the fourth-highest daily maximum 8-hour concentration within a year.

Data over a 20 year-period showing eight-hour ozone design values ​​at Sheboygan’s Haven and Kohler-Andrae air quality monitoring sites in relation to National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Design values ​​are based on a three-year average of the fourth-highest daily maximum 8-hour concentration within a year.

DNR staff said the department’s 2022 air quality data is still being certified and is not available yet.

Preliminary EPA data shows five days averaged above the eight-hour ozone concentration of 70 ppb at the Kohler-Andrae site during the 2022 ozone season (end of March to mid-October).

The Haven site averaged four days above 70 ppb for the same time period.

4. Mobile sources and emissions from other states contribute to Wisconsin’s ozone.

Ozone levels are likely to be highest on hot and sunny summer days in urban areas. However, ozone can impact rural areas, too, as it travels long distances across wind and state lines.

This is one contributor to the county’s ozone levels.

Emissions from power plants and other industries in Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Texas contribute to Wisconsin’s lakeshore, according to the EPA.

In turn, Wisconsin’s emissions were found to only impact Illinois.

Mobile sources on the road, like cars and trucks, are still the largest contributor to ozone, according to the DNR.

Mobile sources like trucks and cars highly contribute to ozone levels in Wisconsin.

Mobile sources like trucks and cars highly contribute to ozone levels in Wisconsin.

5. Results on EPA’s ‘Transport Rule’ are expected this week.

The EPA proposed an updated “Good Neighbor” plan last February that would require 26 states, including Wisconsin, to reduce emissions at power plants and other industrial sources. The goal is to mitigate transported emissions across states.

States in this “Transport Rule” were identified as significantly contributing to nonattainment or maintenance of the 2015 standards in other states.

The proposed rule would also establish limitations on nitrogen oxide emissions from stationary industrial sources in 23 states and an allowance-based ozone season-trading program for nitrogen oxide emissions in fossil fuel power plants across 25 states.

A map shows how transported emissions from power plants and other industries contribute to ozone levels across state lines.

A map shows how transported emissions from power plants and other industries contribute to ozone levels across state lines.

DNR staff shared that the EPA did not look at sources that directly impacted Sheboygan, such as power plants, steel manufacturing or paper mills south of Wisconsin.

The DNR commented heavily on the issue to the EPA and pointed out the county often has the highest ozone levels in the state, DNR’s Air Management Program Director Gail Good said at the meeting.

Finalization of the EPA’s rules is expected March 15.

The EPA also designated heavy duty truck tampering — the adjustment of emission controls — as a compliance priority issue for the past three years. Emission tampering can lead to excess emissions and is illegal under the Clean Air Act.

Good said the EPA is deprioritizing the issue, but the DNR is still being vocal about it because the department does not regulate mobile source emissions and needs the EPA’s help in these situations.

6. A ruling to implement stricter ozone standards is expected at the end of 2023.

About 100 counties in the US still measure above the 2015 standards, although the EPA reports ozone levels have decreased by 20% over the last two decades.

The EPA is considering its 2020 decision to keep ozone standards at 70 ppb, which could potentially address counties failing to meet the standard if it’s lowered.

The reconsideration comes after several legal challenges and the lack of an ozone-specific panel to the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee in 2020, according to the agency. The committee requested the ozone panel for the current consideration.

The agency’s decision is expected at the end of the year.

7. A Mobile Air Monitoring Lab measured high ozone for two years in Sheboygan.

As part of the DNR’s Enhanced Ozone Monitoring plan, a Mobile Air Monitoring Lab was deployed in Sheboygan in 2022 and 2021 to further understand the impact of ozone along the lakeshore.

The MAML measured ozone reaching a maximum level of 106.4 ppb and 88.6 ppb, respectively, while parked at Spaceport Sheboygan.

The MAML will be deployed in Milwaukee next to better understand the speciation of mobile ozone sources, Praedel said at the meeting.

The DNR is hoping to secure Inflation Reduction Act funding to specifically look at how ports in nonattainment areas are leading to more mobile emissions, whether it be trucks, cars, rail lines or ships, Good said.

This could contribute to better understanding air quality issues in Sheboygan since those sources contribute to ozone.

8. Public comment is open to the EPA’s proposal to lower the particulate matter standard.

DNR staff also discussed a forthcoming EPA proposal to lower the annual PM2.5 standard from 12.0 µg/m³ to a range of 9.0 to 10.0 µg/m³. It was established in 2012.

The EPA classifies two types of particulate matter — PM2.5 and PM10 — which consists of small inhalable particles that can lead to lung damage and enter the bloodstream.

A figure shows the diameter of particulate matter in relation to a grain of sand and a piece of human hair.

A figure shows the diameter of particulate matter in relation to a grain of sand and a piece of human hair.

Particulate matter can emit directly to sources like construction sites and smokestacks or react with liquid droplets in the atmosphere from power plants and car emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, according to the EPA.

There are no proposed changes to the 24-hour standards for PM2.5 or PM10.

Wisconsin’s 24-hour PM2.5 levels have decreased below the national standard on average over the past 20 years.

Public comment on the EPA’s proposed decision is open until March 28. More information about the issue and the comment form can be found via the Federal Register website at https://bit.ly/3YL4P1F.

more:Adam Payne reflects on 24 years as Sheboygan County administrator and shares challenges to come as he takes a new role as Wisconsin DNR secretary

more:Water in Howards Grove may stymie larger development, but changing that would be expensive and challenging

Contact Alex Garner at 224-374-2332 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @alexx_garner.

This article originally appeared on Sheboygan Press: Sheboygan air quality: EPA proposals on emission, ozone may be key

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