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Air Quality in Southwest Virginia is strong

Published On: Jun 27 2013 04:02:04 PM EDT
Updated On: Jun 27 2013 08:34:01 PM EDT
Air quality in Roanoke Valley has gotten markedly bett

Officials thank a 2004 report for the guidance to clean up the air

ROANOKE, Va. -

By nature, the term air quality is daunting; how do you control something so vast?

Nine years ago in Southwest Virginia, several counties and towns decided to take a crack at it and it's paid dividends.

The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission had a choice; be subject to federal government scrutiny for its air quality problem or do something themselves.

The commission gathered government leaders from its five counties and came up with this document, they say it's made all the difference.

Up until a few years ago, seeing this warning was a relatively common occurance during these warm summer months.  But in the past four years combined, there were just three high ozone days in Roanoke.

"Got to get to come together as local governments and decide for themselves what they would try to do," said Mark McCaskill with the commission.

"That was a no-brainer to them, we need to do something, we need to prevent having this stuff imposed on us, we need to find a way around it," added Anne Marie Green who heads General Services in Roanoke County.

The 2004 report, called the Early Action Plan, gave a wide swath of suggestions to participating localities of ways to cut back pollution.

From encouraging citizens to not fill up their cars except for early in the morning or after five, or encouraging people not to mow until after five o'clock.

The emphasis was on small, grassroots things that contributed to the greater whole of better air quality, and it started with the local governments themselves.

"Things have dramatically changed, in the county itself we have a no idling policy," said Anne Marie Green,"vehicle conversions, we now have a fleet that includes 11 hybrid vehicles, we use biodiesel, everytime we buy one we make sure its as fuel efficient as we can get it."

Other efforts like more tree-planting and making buildings greener have contributed to Southwest Virginia's success.

A lot of little things have contributed to helping clean up our air, but officials say there's always more that people can do.

One of the biggest causes for this self-directed fix was the tourism industry in the area, officials on the regional commission didn't want the views we have ruined by smog.

That was one of several economic development benefits obtained by fixing the air problem by themselves instead of being subjected to some federal oversight.