Ozone panel to work with Bay, coastal agencies
The Ozone Transport Commission -- the panel charged with reducing the Northeast's chronic summertime smog problem -- has signaled its intention to work more closely with the Chesapeake Bay Program and other coastal and estuarine management agencies.
The action followed a Bay Program presentation aimed at showing how the control of smog-causing air pollutants could also benefit estuaries and coastal waters in the region -- something usually not considered in the development of air pollution control policy.
"Several people [at the OTC meeting] mentioned that this was the first time anyone had come to talk to them about water quality benefits," said Rich Batiuk, the Bay Program's acting associate director for science.
The exact link between the commission and coastal water programs will be decided after a workgroup appointed at the meeting reports back with recommendations. But the commission's interest is significant as air and water pollution programs are, historically, regulated independently of each other.
At the Feb. 13 meeting, Robert Thomann, a professor at Manhattan College in New York, who is an internationally recognized expert in water-quality monitoring, presented recent findings that show that significant amounts of atmospheric nitrogen deposition are contributing to coastal water pollution problems.
Modeling done in the Bay watershed indicates that between 20 percent and 35 percent of all the nitrogen entering the Bay is the result of nitrogen oxide emissions from cars, power plants and other fossil fuel-burning sources, some of which originate hundreds of miles outside the watershed. Other coastal areas face similar situations. When nitrogen enters salt water areas, it spurs excess algae growth that eventually leads to oxygen depletion in the water.
Controlling nitrogen oxide emissions is also a major concern of the OTC. Nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds are the two main contributors to the dangerous ozone levels that plague much of the East Coast in the summertime. Ozone is a key component of the smog that hangs over many cities on hot, humid summer days, posing a threat to human health.
Certain strategies the OTC could pursue to reduce ozone formation -- primarily those which focus on seeking further nitrogen oxide reductions -- could benefit water quality as well, something that impressed commission members.
"They seemed to be indicating that anything they can use to help bolster their argument on ozone would be useful," Batiuk said.
The OTC consists of state air pollution control officials and and the heads of environmental agencies from all the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states and the District of Columbia. It also includes representatives from the EPA.
Making a presentation to the OTC about the links between coastal water quality and air pollution was a top priority of a Shared Resources workshop last October that brought together scientists and key policy and regulatory officials from the East Coast to explore ways water policy and air policy could work together to protect coastal ecosystems.
Stemming from the Shared Resources workshop, a presentation similar to the one made to the OTC is planned for the Ozone Transport Assessment Group, which includes air pollution officials from all the states east of the Mississippi River, as well as from the EPA.
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