Sunday, February 3, 2013

Ozone in St Bernard Parish, Louisiana

St Bernard Parish Air Quality

UNLESS ................................................
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Ozone is formed when nitrates of oxygen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) combine together in sunlight. One solution to high concentrations of ground level ozone is the use of fuel that contains less benzene and lower sulfur content. Some communities switch public transportation buses and school buses to bio diesel or natural gas or use ultra low sulfur content fuels in an attempt to reduce Ozone pollution.

Ozone Attainment Status

The Good News on Ozone levels in St Bernard is there seems to be enough lead time to address the Ozone issue before being designated or labeled non-attainment for Ozone. It's a violation of the Ozone standard when the 8-hour average of ground level ozone does not remain below the current standard of 75 parts per billion. (The old standard was an 8-hour average of 80 parts per billion). An area would be recommended for designation (or "labeled") non-attainment when the annual fourth-highest daily maximum 8-hour concentration of Ozone, averaged over 3 years, is 75 ppb or higher. In St Bernard Parish, Ozone levels are sampled at the LDEQ "Meraux" site at Joe Davies Elementary School.

According to data on EPA's Air Data website, St Bernard Parish's current 3 year average for Ozone is around 73 ppb and we all need to do our part to keep it below 75 ppb. (Based on annual fourth highest daily maximum 8 hour concentration of Ozone for 2010 at 74 ppb , for 2011 at 76 ppb , for 2012 at 69ppb. { [(74+76+69) / 3 ] = 73 ppb} From left hand column menu, select Monitor Values, select Ozone, select Louisiana, select year, scroll down to 8-hour averages.) LDEQ's "Meraux" site readings assessible here , under site data, select "Meraux".
So, now is the time for all of us to do our part to be part of the solution, to work with coalitions to reduce Ozone, and to protect what little is left of our good air quality. Part of success stories, like St Bernard's in the late 1990's and Baton Rouge's recent success to reduce Ozone, are coalitions that take "Early Action" to reduce pollution before its so bad. For Ozone, this would include even further reduction of NOx (nitrates of oxygen) and VOCs (volatile organic compounds such as benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene and others) at all nearby industries, and the use of "Clean Fuels" in buses, trucks and other vehicles, including barge and ship traffic on the Mississippi River.

Clean Fuels create dirty neighborhoods

But Ozone and Clean Fuel Projects are sort of a Catch 22 in communities where the Clean Fuel is manufactured. When EPA mandates lower benzene and sulfur content in Clean Fuels, the refining of crude oil into "Clean Fuels" results in more sulfur dioxide and VOCs, such as benzene, in the fenceline neighborhoods, unless the LDEQ requires more stringent pollution controls. It seems Clean Fuels Projects that began around the late 1990's, or early 2000, were "grandfathered in" and LDEQ didnot require the state-of-the-art pollution controls. The result: St Bernard Parish is now the poster child for sulfur dioxide pollution, with concentration levels three times higher than the one-hour sulfur health limit, the 2nd highest sulfur dioxide concentrations in the United States, second only to Hawaiin communities that seem to be around active volcanoes.  The EPA is expected to make its official designation of St Bernard Parish as non-attainment for sulfur dioxide health standards.

Calcined petroleum coke (CPC) also contributes sulfur emissions. Louisiana is the largest CPC producing region  in the world outside of China, with several Rain CII coke plants accounting for more than half of Louisiana’s CPC production. Rain CII's facility in Chalmette operates under a variance and has received several additional exemptions to bypass the pyroscrubber and vent emissions for upto 500 hours a year. Rain CII Chalmette recently applied for a "minor" modification to its Title V air permit to make the variance permanent and to increase the total of bypass or vent time to 836 hours. This "minor" application is separate from its December 2012 short-term variance for 336 hours that LDEQ pulled in January 2013 admist concerns of high sulfur levels in the adjacent neighborhood.  As a "minor" modification, the Title V air permit is subject to less stringent pollution controls than "major" modifications.  Minor modifications do not require pubic notice or a cost benefit analysis. St Bernard Parish Government has requested LDEQ conduct a public hearing on the "minor" modification at Rain CII. This will be a good opportunity for concerned people and government bodies, such as the HRQL, to submit pubic comment.

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