Taking action: Individuals can offset area pollution

Published 8:49 am Thursday, May 17, 2018

By Ken Stickney


If you blinked long enough to miss Beaumont-Port Arthur’s now completed Ozone Action Day, don’t fret.

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The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality declared an Ozone Action Day on Wednesday. That happens when the conditions are right for producing high levels of ozone air pollution, triggering a TCEQ announcement.

Ozone Action Days are declared to give local residents opportunity to counter the ill environmental effects of the day through their own voluntary actions.

“You can help prevent ozone pollution by sharing a ride, walking or riding a bicycle, taking your lunch to work, avoiding drive-through lanes, conserving energy and keeping your vehicle properly tuned,” said Bob Dickinson, director of Transportation and Environmental Resources for the South East Texas Regional Planning Commission.

Dickinson said Wednesday afternoon that Beaumont-Port Arthur — a region that encompasses Jefferson, Orange and Hardin counties — had weathered “three or four” Ozone Action Days already in May; they are occurring at a faster clip than last year.

Here’s what all that means: During the Ozone Forecast Season, roughly March 1 to Oct. 31 in Texas, TCEQ meteorologists make forecasts for selected metropolitan areas, Beaumont-Port Arthur among them, about the chances for elevated ozone concentrations. Beaumont-Port Arthur’s forecast season started May 1.

Dickinson said forecasts that indicate possible elevated ozone days include these conditions: clear skies, high temperatures and low wind speeds. That’s what Greater Port Arthur experienced for weather Wednesday.

A check at Air Now website late Wednesday afternoon showed the air quality index for Beaumont-Port Arthur — the AQI measures the current air quality — at 140. Scores between 101 and 150 are interpreted to mean that the general public was not at risk, but that “people with lung disease, older adults and children are at risk from the presence of particles in the air.” A TCEQ spokeswoman said that 140 “current AQI” rating was a “snapshot” of the air quality that day, but at the time it was the highest of the 15 Texas metro areas measured.

Dickinson said sources for harmful ozone in this area include industry, paint and body shops, traffic and more.

But he said individuals can play a part in offsetting air pollution through simple actions that include limiting their driving, carpooling, not using charcoal lighter fluid, not running their gas mowers until the evening. Those types of efforts may have helped Beaumont-Port Arthur do a better job of meeting air-quality standards in recent years.

“There are a lot of commonsense actions people can take,” he said.