KINGSPORT ‚¬ The Ozone Action Partnership continues to focus on community education and encouraging residents to modify activity during peak ozone levels to protect the air quality of the region.

What is ozone?

Ozone is found in two regions of the Earths atmosphere ‚¬ at ground level and in the upper regions of the atmosphere.‚  The ozone layer in the atmosphere is 10-30 miles above the earth and shields life on earth from the suns harmful rays.‚  Closer to earth, ozone is considered a pollutant.

What affects ozone levels?

Ozone levels are driven by sunlight and heat.‚  Warm sunny days with limited wind are the most likely occurrences of increased levels of ozone.‚  Geography also plays an important role.‚  Ozone levels can be especially high during the summer months when the air does not mix well and air pollution doesnt disperse.

Where does ground level ozone come from?

Ground level ozone is formed from emissions from cars and trucks, utilities, boilers, refineries and other naturally occurring sources.

What is the Ozone Action Partnership?

The Ozone Action Partnership ‚¬ the first of its kind in the state of Tennessee – involves representatives from regional industry, government, academia, and the medical community. The group was established in 2001 to come up with a voluntary plan that would help the region keep ozone levels down during the hot summer months. As a result, Air Quality Alert Days are now being forecasted and publicized the day before ozone is likely to form. The partnership also encourages individuals and businesses to help out on Air Quality Alert Days by taking certain steps or implementing their own plans.

The public has a critical role in controlling‚  ozone levels, said Bill Sorah, Ozone Action Partnership Chair. If we can all alter our behavior during severely hot weather patterns, it can impact our regional air quality, public health and the economic well-being of our region.

What can community residents do to influence the levels of ozone?

Since ozone levels are driven by heat and sunlight, reduce activity that generates heat or requires a combustion engine.‚  For example, limit travel by combining trips or carpooling, limit engine idling, conserve energy by cutting back the air conditioner or turning off the lights, also postpone lawn mowing until the evening.

Are there any other concerns with high levels of ozone?

Ozone levels are monitored by the State of Tennessee, and standards are enforced by the EPA. Areas that exceed the ozone standard may be designated as non-attainment.‚  Non-attainment designation has serious ramifications for the economic development of an area as well as indication that air quality does not always meet federal standards.

The Tri-Cities expects to maintain attainment with the EPAs air quality standards.

For more information or to sign up for air quality forecasts from the EPA’s Enviroflash system, visit www.airnow.gov.