State Takes Lead in Ozone Reduction

The bad news is that Metro Atlanta has a serious air quality problem. The 13 county area is classified as a serious ozone non-attainment zone. The good news is that the employees and agencies of state government are taking the lead in helping to reduce ozone levels.

Ground level or “tropospheric” ozone is created when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from solvents, fuels, vegetation, etc. combine with nitrous oxides (NOX) created by burning materials such as wood, coal, natural gas, and gasoline in the presence of sunlight. Since the most intense and longest-lasting sunlight occurs in the summer months, the most significant production of ground level ozone takes place during the period from May 1 to September 30. This period is called the ozone season.

Within this period, there are days when conditions are right for the ozone level to exceed the maximum daily concentration level set in the Clean Air Act. These events are known as “ozone action days.” New technology makes it possible to forecast an ozone action day 24 hours in advance.

On December 4, 1997, Governor Miller issued an Executive Order mandating that all state departments in the non-attainment area prepare detailed plans to reduce single occupancy commuting by 20% on specified “ozone action days.” In addition to its commuting plan, each state agency is also required to submit a report identifying how it will eliminate or reduce ozone-producing activities (i.e. use of solvents and operating small gasoline engines) during the ozone action days. In 1999, these agencies must achieve the same 20% reductions in single occupancy vehicle commuting and other ozone producing activities during the entire ozone action season.

These requirements are a part of the state’s Voluntary Ozone Action Program (VOAP). The program is being administered by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. VOAP is designed to educate and motivate employers and employees to do their part to reduce ozone. P2AD will also be participating in this effort by providing appropriate information to requesting state agencies and businesses, such as on low-VOC technologies for cleaning and painting processes.

VOAP coordinators for each affected state agency will be notified when an ozone action day is forecasted. At this time the ozone reduction actions identified in their state plan will be implemented. A variety of options are available and agencies may choose the options that best fit their operations. The VOAP program will also be working with private businesses in metro Atlanta to implement similar plans for ozone action days. Commuting options include ridematching, telecommuting, rapid transit, biking, walking, and variable hours. Operations/maintenance options include delayed painting and vehicle refueling, substitution of solvent-based chemicals, use of clean fuel vehicles, and work schedule modification. For more information about the program contact Jeane Pierce, VOAP Coordinator, at (404) 165-6210.