In the past, the answers to environmental questions were unavailable or often slow in coming. And when you did get them, chances are the answers were outdated and difficult to understand. To address this problem, in 1996 President Clinton directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create a new program, Environmental Monitoring for Public Access and Community Tracking (EMPACT), to bring to people up-to-date environmental information they could understand and use every day.
Air Info Now and Pima County Department of Environmental Quality (PDEQ) are currently working on bringing this real-time air quality information to the public. This information will help communities and individuals make informed, day-to-day decisions about their lives.
Information is currently offered through these areas:
National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)1
The Clean Air Act, which was last amended in 1990, requires EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards for pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment. The Clean Air Act established two types of national air quality standards. Primary standards set limits to protect public health, including the health of “sensitive” populations such as asthmatics, children, and the elderly. Secondary standards set limits to protect public welfare, including protection against decreased visibility, damage to animals, crops, vegetation, and buildings.
The EPA Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS) has set National Ambient Air Quality Standards for six principal pollutants, which are called “criteria” pollutants. They are listed below. Units of measure for the standards are parts per million (ppm) by volume, parts per billion (ppb) by volume, and micrograms per cubic meter of air (µg/m3).
Pima County is currently in attainment (compliance) with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for all of the criteria pollutants.
Current National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)
(1) Final rule signed October 15, 2008. The 1978 lead standard (1.5 µg/m3 as a quarterly average) remains in effect until one year after an area is designated for the 2008 standard, except that in areas designated nonattainment for the 1978, the 1978 standard remains in effect until implementation plans to attain or maintain the 2008 standard are approved.
(2) The official level of the annual NO2 standard is 0.053 ppm, equal to 53 ppb, which is shown here for the purpose of clearer comparison to the 1-hour standard.
(3) Final rule signed March 12, 2008. The 1997 ozone standard (0.08 ppm, annual fourth-highest daily maximum 8-hour concentration, averaged over 3 years) and related implementation rules remain in place. In 1997, EPA revoked the 1-hour ozone standard (0.12 ppm, not to be exceeded more than once per year) in all areas, although some areas have continued obligations under that standard (“anti-backsliding”). The 1-hour ozone standard is attained when the expected number of days per calendar year with maximum hourly average concentrations above 0.12 ppm is less than or equal to 1.
(4) Final rule signed June 2, 2010. The 1971 annual and 24-hour SO2 standards were revoked in that same rulemaking. However, these standards remain in effect until one year after an area is designated for the 2010 standard, except in areas designated nonattainment for the 1971 standards, where the 1971 standards remain in effect until implementation plans to attain or maintain the 2010 standard are approved.