The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will host two public meetings next week to get public input on a proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to put restrictions on Muscatine County for air pollution. Jim McGraw of the DNR’s Air Quality Bureau, says the EPA proposal comes after air monitors showed problems.
“During a time period between 2008 and 2010 it recorded several violations of the one-hour sulfur dioxide ambient air quality standard,” McGraw explains. “So, based on that EPA has proposed that the entire county of Muscatine County be designated as nonattainment for that one-hour SO-2 standard.”
McGraw says the nonattainment status is going to happen, but the question now is how large an area should be included, and they will address that on March 28th. “EPA based their proposal on the one monitor location. We’ve been doing some additional analysis and we think that a smaller area might be more appropriate,” McGraw says.
“By the 28th we should have a good idea of what the boundaries of a smaller area would look like, and we want to share those with the public and get their input on it.” He says there are some definite economic consequences for the businesses and people who end up in the nonattainment area.
“Existing industrial facilities, they could end being required to install pollution control equipment, or limit their production, or otherwise do things to that would reduce their emissions,” McGraw says. “New facilities that may want to locate within the nonattainment area would most likely be required to install the most stringent pollution controls that are available. And they would also have to offset their emissions a certain amount to ensure that there was no increase in S0-2 in their operation of the new facility.”
McGraw says there is currently only one other nonattainment area in the state. “It’s in Council Bluffs, it’s about a four-square mile area that’s in nonattainment with the lead ambient air quality standard. Interestingly enough, in Muscatine we’ve had S-Oh-two nonattainment there in the past. Back in the early 90’s, a big portion of the city of Muscatine was in nonattainment for the 24-hour air quality standard for S-Oh-Two,” McGraw says.
He says the standards have since been changed, and Muscatine is now in violation for a tougher one-hour standard. Once the DNR gets public input, it will make it’s proposal for the nonattainment area. “The EPA will either accept that alternative proposal, or they could come up with a new proposal based on ours. Or they could just go with what they had originally proposed, which would be the entire county of Muscatine — but it will be up to them to finalize that,” according to McGraw.
He says they would make their final decision sometime in June. The meetings will be held March 28 at the Muscatine County Conservation Board’s Environmental Learning Center at one p.m. and at six p.m. Those not able to attend the meetings can submit written comments to the Iowa DNR Air Quality Bureau.