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Owens Valley fails to attain air quality health standard

Release Date: 03/15/2007
Contact Information: Margot Perez-Sullivan, Desk/415.947.4149/cell 415.760.9161

SAN FRANCISCO - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is today proposing to find that the Owens Valley area has failed to meet the federal clean air standard for coarse particulate matter (PM-10), or dust, by the December 31, 2006 deadline.

If finalized, the Clean Air Act requires the state to submit a plan containing measures that will reduce airborne particulate matter five percent a year until the area meets the federal air quality standard. After a 30-day comment period, the EPA will make a final decision on its finding.

The proposed finding is based on air quality monitoring data for PM-10 from 2004 to 2006

"The Owens Valley area faces a serious PM-10 problem,” said Deborah Jordan, the EPA's Air Division director for the Pacific Southwest. "We are working closely with the state and local agencies to take the necessary steps to bring clean air to the valley."

National health standards for pollutants that threaten public health and the environment are set by the EPA as mandated by the Clean Air Act. To be considered to have met the health standard, the Clean Air Act requires three consecutive years of clean air.

When an area violates a health-based standard, the Clean Air Act requires the area to be designated as a non-attainment area for that pollutant. The Owens Valley was designated a serious non-attainment area for PM-10 in 1993 with an attainment date of no later than December 2001.

After the area applied for an extension, the EPA granted the maximum 5-year extension with a new December 31, 2006 deadline.

The primary cause of dust pollution in the Owens Valley area is windblown dust from the dry lakebed.

Particulate matter affects the respiratory system and can cause damage to lung tissue and premature death. The elderly, children, and people with chronic lung disease, influenza, or asthma are especially sensitive to high levels of particulate matter.

Information on today's action will be available at: