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Summer air quality best on record in Virginia

Published On: Dec 24 2013 09:19:15 AM EST   Updated On: Oct 01 2013 01:19:31 PM EDT
Poor air quality

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Smog, or fog and/or haze combined with smoke and other atmospheric pollutants create a milky look to the sky and can be a clear indicator of poor air quality.


Governor Bob McDonnell announced Tuesday that 2013 has been the best year on record for clean air in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“Clean air is of vital importance to all Virginians,” Governor McDonnell said. “The Commonwealth’s long-term efforts to protect people’s health and the environment are paying off, and we expect air quality improvements to continue in the future.”

According to the most recent data from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, there has been a 97 percent decrease, since 1999, in the number of days that exceeded the national air quality standard for ground-level ozone at monitoring stations statewide. Summer 2013 set a record for the fewest number of days – two – that did not meet the current ozone standard set in 2008. In 1999, the number of days of poor air quality days in Virginia was 76.

“Between 1999 and 2013, Metro Richmond declined from 47 poor air quality days to one, Hampton Roads declined from 32 days to zero, and Northern Virginia declined from 51 days to one,” said David Paylor, Director of Virginia DEQ.

Improved air quality is a result of emission control programs at power plants and other industrial sources, where pollution controls have been implemented. The vehicle emissions inspections performed in Northern Virginia supplement the improved emission control equipment on newer automobiles.

One other factor – the weather – also has contributed to overall improvement. Ozone pollution occurs most often in hot weather with stagnant air conditions, so the relatively mild temperatures in Virginia this summer played a significant role.

Virginia also analyzes emissions of four other air pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, volatile organic compounds, and fine particles. Total emissions of these pollutants have been cut in half from 1.4 million tons in 2002 to 700,000 tons in 2011.

Long-term trends show this additional progress for Virginia’s air quality:

• Nitrogen oxide emissions from major power plants have declined 84 percent since 1995.

• Sulfur dioxide emissions from major power plants have dropped 86 percent since 1995.

• Levels of fine particles have met the air quality standard for the past five years statewide, and they continue to decline.LOCAL