Cincinnati, Ohio – Take a deep breath. The air is getting cleaner in Greater Cincinnati.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ruled that the Ohio portion of the Cincinnati region has reached “attainment” standards for the pollutant ozone. High levels of ozone can cause many respiratory issues as well as damage to the environment.
A rule declaring the Kentucky portion as attainment is expected in the coming weeks. Indiana was already considered an attainment area
“This is wonderful news,” said Mark Policinski, CEO of the Ohio-Indiana-Kentucky Regional Council of Governments. “It bodes well for the health of everyone in this region, especially those with chronic illnesses.”
Policinski added, “Cleaner air can also boost economic development. Cities and regions are constantly vying for new talent, families and businesses. Those with healthier air quality have the advantage that comes with better health outcomes.”
As defined by the EPA, the “Cincinnati, Ohio-Kentucky area” comprises Butler, Clermont, Hamilton, and Warren counties in Ohio; and parts of Boone, Campbell, and Kenton counties in Kentucky.
“The Ohio portion of the OKI region is now in attainment of the ozone standard,” said Andy Reser, OKI’s transportation program manager. “This means that recently monitored air pollutant concentrations are within the threshold needed to be considered attainment – or, does not exceed the ozone standard.”
If air quality in a geographic area meets or is cleaner than the national standard, it is called an “attainment” area. An area that doesn’t meet the national standard is called a “nonattainment area,” Reser explained.
With the EPA’s recent ruling on ozone, the Ohio portion of the OKI region is in attainment for all six pollutants, meeting or above federal standards.
Using monitored air quality measurements for ozone, the Ohio EPA made the request for attainment reclassification to the U.S. EPA, based on the 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). OKI forecasts of future transportation emissions played a key role in Ohio EPA’S request.
“OKI-forecasted transportation emissions information was provided to the Ohio EPA to help demonstrate that this region can maintain the standard through at least 2035,” Reser said.
NAAQS are limits on six pollutants that cause smog, acid rain, and other health hazards. NAAQS apply to outdoor air throughout the country.
The pollutants are ozone; atmospheric particulate matter; lead; carbon monoxide; sulfur oxide; and nitrogen oxide. These are typically emitted from many sources in industry, mining, transportation, electricity generation and agriculture.
While other factors could have had contributed to the reclassification – COVID, recent shutdown of coal-producing plants, etc. – Reser said several OKI initiatives would also have helped reduce ozone emissions.
“A number of OKI-funded projects have contributed to a reduction in the region’s ozone levels, including roundabouts, bus replacements, bicycle and pedestrian initiatives, left hand turn additions, and others,” Reser said. “Our Rideshare and Clean Air Campaigns also certainly played a part in less ambient ozone pollution.”
OKI is a council of local governments, business organizations and community groups committed to developing collaborative strategies, plans and programs to improve the quality of life and economic development potential of the Tri-State.