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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • Wichita metro area faced with rising ozone levels

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  • Community members in the Wichita metropolitan area may be breathing air that’s a little less clean than it used to be, and the area soon may be forced to take steps to improve air quality. Newton City Manager Randy Riggs said rising ozone levels in the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Harvey County, soon may cause the area to become out of compliance with Environmental Protection Agency standards. “Like it or not, ozone is going to be a part of your upcoming discussions,” he told commissioners at their Tuesday night meeting. Weather conditions in the Wichita area the past few years have contributed to an increase in ozone levels. Commissioner Jim Nickel said the Wichita MSA is on the verge of reaching a “noncompliance” status. If they go over the specified ozone limit, they will have to take action in order to return the air quality to a healthy level. “I don’t think we really have a choice in that matter,” Nickel said. This could include required annual inspections of cars, and an increase in the cost of gasoline due to new regulations and programs. Officials also fear stricter permitting and emissions requirements could make it more difficult to attract new industries to the area and could hinder existing industries wishing to expand. Suggestions for helping the Wichita MSA remain in compliance include a “no idle” policy for cars, and encouraging people to fill their gas tanks when it is cooler (morning or evening), so there are not as many emissions escaping from gas tanks. Nickel also said more careful management of prairie burning could help to control air quality levels.

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