Charlotte, NC - The season for monitoring ozone has begun in North Carolina. Already, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg non-attainment region has exceeded the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) on three consecutive days with "Code Orange" levels (unhealthy for sensitive groups) - April 18, 19 and 20 - the earliest ozone episode in memory.
Governor Mike Easley has proclaimed April 24 - 30, 2005 Air Awareness Week across North Carolina. The N.C. Air Awareness program helps to curb air pollution through the forecasts, notifications to news media, and air coalitions in the forecast areas.
The N.C. Division of Air Quality (DAQ) will resume issuing daily air quality forecasts for ozone starting on April 30. The daily forecast is issued at 3 p.m. every day for the following day. The forecasts and other information can be obtained at Mecklenburg County Air Quality's Web site,
The color-coded forecasts show whether air quality is likely to be good (green), moderate (yellow), unhealthy for sensitive groups (orange), or unhealthy (red). On code orange and red days, the forecasts also suggest things people can do to protect their health and reduce air pollution, such as limiting outdoor activities, avoiding strenuous exercise and driving less.
CUTTING POLLUTION WHEN IT COUNTS: A number of steps have been taken statewide and locally to reduce ground-level ozone and encourage actions by businesses, industry, governments and individuals. The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce will encourage businesses to participate in a voluntary "Cutting Pollution When It Counts" ozone plan this summer. The Chamber's effort to find air quality solutions focuses on three criteria: solutions should be voluntary, solutions should be regional and routine daily solutions are preferable to unpredictable methods that interrupt business.
STATE OF THE AIR REPORT 2005: According to the just-released American Lung Association "State of the Air Report 2005," the southeast saw some of the strongest improvements in ozone pollution during 2001-2003. But several cities in the region remain on their list of the most polluted cities in the nation. The ALA report stated that the Charlotte-Gastonia-Salisbury, NC-SC non-attainment region ranked 12th on the list of most ozone polluted cities. Individually, Mecklenburg County improved its ozone levels during 2001 - 2003 enough to drop off the list of the 25 most ozone-polluted counties. These ozone levels continued to improve in 2004. "Although ozone levels have improved, we believe we still have work to do," says Don Willard, Mecklenburg County Air Quality director. "Business, industry, and individuals throughout the Charlotte-Mecklenburg non-attainment area must continue to act to improve our air by 2009 to meet the ozone attainment deadline set by the EPA."