Original Article by LeeShearer of OnlineAthens
Air quality in Georgia has improved markedly over the past decade, and that improvement is likely to continue in the foreseeable future, according to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s top air quality administrator.
Emissions of fine-particle pollution and ozone-forming chemicals have declined dramatically, said EPD Air Protection Branch Chief Karen Hays.
Emissions of ozone-forming sulfur dioxide (SO2) declined from more than 700,000 tons a year in 2005 to less than 100,000 tons in 2015, according to EPD records.
In the same 10 years, emissions of nitrous oxide and nitrous dioxide (NOX) have also come down sharply, though not as steeply as SO2.
NOX emissions rose to around 650,000 tons per year in 2007, but by 2014 and 2015 had dipped below 400,000, according to EPD’s monitoring data.
Because of the improvements, EPD has asked federal officials to drop seven metro Atlanta counties from the Atlanta “nonattainment” zone, where ozone levels all too frequently exceeded a federal standard meant to protect human health.
Under the EPD’s October 2016 recommendation, Paulding, Douglas, Coweta, Fayette, Cherokee, Forsyth and Newton counties would be dropped from the Atlanta nonattainment zone.