The two key objectives in the plan are maximizing compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards region-wide and minimizing the health and environmental impacts of regional air pollution.
When temperatures are high, sunshine is strong and winds are weak, ground-level ozone can increase to unhealthful levels. Central Texas generally sees its highest ozone levels between April and late October.
High ozone concentration causes damage to human health, including shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, headaches, nausea and lung damage, especially when exercising heavily or doing strenuous work outdoors.
People who suffer from lung diseases like bronchitis, emphysema and asthma have even more trouble breathing when the air is polluted.
Children whose lungs are still developing often play outdoors in the summer for long periods of time. They breathe more rapidly and inhale more air pollution per pound of body weight than adults, thus increasing their risk for respiratory problems.
Increased surface-level ozone can reduce photosynthesis, growth and other plant functions in agricultural crops. Reducing ozone pollution can improve crop yields and promote other plant growth.
If an area’s air quality violates federal standards or contributes locally to violations of federal standards, it is at risk for being designated “nonattainment” by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Violations can make it hard to recruit a new industry or for existing industries to significantly expand because they can be subject to the most stringent emissions control requirements, often at unaffordable costs.
Businesses should also ensure they’re following regulations to prevent air pollution.
Currently our five counties are designated “attainment” for all federal air quality standards.
Monitoring data collected by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality from 2016 to 2018 indicated air pollution levels within the region met all federal standards.
However, since the ozone levels were 97 percent of the maximum allowable under federal standards, it’s likely that by the end of 2019 the ozone levels will violate these standards.
What can you do?
• Log onto tceq.texas.gov and click on Get email or text updates of your choice of topics to sign up for ozone action alerts.
• Turn off the ignition while dropping off or waiting for your school children who also breathe those exhaust fumes. As more drivers, including bus drivers, stop idling, air quality and health can be improved.
• Keep your vehicle maintained, including proper tire pressure, and never top off your tank because after the pump automatically clicks off, raw gasoline can enter your vehicle’s evaporative emissions system increasing exhaust fumes.
• Consider carpooling, vanpooling and public transit that improve the air from fewer internal combustion vehicles on the road, plus you save on gas and vehicle maintenance.
• Refuel your automobile and mow your lawn either early in the morning before 9 a.m. or in the evening after 6 p.m. because hotter temperatures and gasoline fumes create ground-level ozone.
• Bike, walk and telework.
• Remember: flexible work schedules and workplaces that are commute-friendly help air quality.
For more information on public transportation in Round Rock, call 512-218-7074 or visit roundrocktexas.gov/departments/transportation/public-transportation.
Commute Solutions is a “one-stop” transportation resource for Central Texans. Learn more at commutesolutions.com.
Let’s all do our part to ensure CAPCOG succeeds in its primary objective that the five counties in the metro area remain in compliance with all federal standards throughout its five-year plan.