County Air Pollution Control releases plan to reduce ozone emissions

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An aerial view of the Imperial and Mexicali valleys. While the Imperial County Air Pollution Control district works to reduce ozone emissions, it struggles with additional emissions from Mexicali.

IMPERIAL COUNTY - A major concern of the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District (ICAPCD) is Imperial County’s inability to meet eight-hour Ozone federal standards for air quality, according to a recent report from the ICAPCD.

Because of certain pollutants being emitted, ground level ozone forms. Ground level ozone exacerbates asthma, bronchitis, and other health issues, making the reduction of ground level ozone a priority for the county’s air pollution control district.

According to the ICAPCD implementation plan, approximately 2.5 percent of children and 5.5 percent of adults in Imperial County have asthma.

“Ozone is a highly reactive gas that can damage the tissues of the respiratory tract, causing inflammation and irritation, and resulting in symptoms such as coughing, chest tightness, and worsening of asthma symptoms,” according to the ICAPCD reports.

Not only is ground level ozone causing spikes in health issues in Imperial County residents, but it also damages plant life. Agriculture becomes more vulnerable to disease and insects. Parks and other landscapes are at risk as well, as ground level ozone damages the leafage on trees and other plants, the report said.

The ICAPCD report stated that Mexicali has about five times the amount of nitrogen oxide emissions and about four times the amount of reactive organic gas emissions than Imperial County.

Reyes Romero, the assistant Air Pollution Control officer, said the cities of Brawley and Niland are in compliance with federal emission standards, but Calexico and El Centro are not.

“During the summer is when we see the peak of ozone concentration. Most of the pollutants are produced in Mexico and the abundance of sunlight amplifies that. El Centro and Calexico, the cities closest to the border, are the ones violating the emission levels,” said Romero.

In 2017, El Centro’s emissions exceeded the eight-hour Ozone Standard by approximately 15 percent. According to the report, emission levels would have been acceptable that year, if not for the effect of contributing emissions from Mexico.

“The ICAPCD’s progress will be further strengthened by collaborative efforts between the United States and Mexico that focus on air quality in the border region, as those efforts will continue to have positive impacts on the concentration of ozone in Imperial County,” the report stated.

The ICAPCD intends to meet and maintain the eight-hour ozone standards with the new implementation plan, according to the report.