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County Commissioners discusses Air Quality action improvement plan

An action plan designed to improve local air quality and prevent a federal noncompliance designation served as a point of discussion by the County Commissioners in recent weeks.

At a February work session, the Lake County Board of Commissioners traded thoughts on the PM Advance Action Plan, developed by a local committee consisting of Town, County and local citizens.

The plan details strategies proposed to reduce the amount of PM 2.5 particulate matter in the air in meeting EPA-mandated standards. The PM Advance program affords a five-year window for the community to meet this standard.

Commissioner Ken Kestner noted that the EPA would deem the entire county as an area of non-attainment, despite the issue being specific to the Goose Lake Basin.

At present, the Town of Lakeview has a ban on open burning between November and February.

Proposed in the plan is expanding this ban to include the urban-growth boundary area, and encourage voluntary compliance in avoiding open burning on ‘red’ and ‘yellow’ days outside the urban growth boundary in a more expanded air quality protection zone.The plan does not propose an outright ban on open burning, nor does it call for any sanctions against wood-burning stoves in this expanded area.

“We have non-attainment looming before us, and we need to be proactive,” Kestner said.

The five-year plan is a show of “good faith” that actions are being taken to improve the local air quality, he said.

Commissioner Brad Winters recommended against accepting the plan until additional modeling and data can reflect the influence of smoke from outside the urban growth boundary area, such as the Westside.

“I can’t support this just going by modeling and statistics without more information,” he said.

At present, there is a lone monitoring device located on North M Street.  Winters said that he does not believe the Westside area is impacting the sole monitor station’s data, and would like to see more hard information to suggest otherwise.

Commissioner Dan Shoun said the county needs to protect the rights and health of its citizens, but also needs to ensure that the county does not implement restrictions greater than that of the EPA.

A community meeting on the subject will be held on Wednesday, March 12, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Lake County Senior Center.

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