By William O’Sullivan
The Christie Administration is urging New Jersey residents to consider making simple lifestyle choices and changes to help improve air quality for everyone in our state, as we celebrate Air Quality Awareness Week, April 29 through May 3.
Some basic changes to everyday practices, such as burning only well-seasoned wood in your fireplace, keeping your vehicle properly maintained, using environmentally friendly products or just turning off some lights in your home or office, can reduce air pollution and decrease your impact on the environment.
New Jersey’s air quality has improved greatly over the years as a result of laws regulating power plants and industrial emissions; better pollution controls on cars and trucks, especially dealing with diesel emissions; upgrading dry cleaning equipment, and many other efforts to control pollution.
Gov. Christie has battled to improve air quality in New Jersey for the health and welfare of our residents. He has particularly targeted major out-of-state polluters.
The Christie Administration won a major victory with the EPA’s (federal Environmental Protection Agency’s) approval of New Jersey’s Clean Air Act petition that has resulted in a 70 percent reduction this year in sulfur dioxide emissions that had long poured across the Delaware River and into North Jersey from coal-fired units at a Portland, Pa., power plant. Those emissions must be reduced even further, by 81 percent in three years, and the owner has announced the company will shut down those coal-fired units.
The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) also has taken the lead in lawsuits against owners of the Homer City Station plant and against Allegheny Energy Inc. to cut massive emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pouring into New Jersey from those western Pennsylvania plants.
As a result of these and other steps, New Jersey’s air is getting gradually cleaner. But there is still more work to do.
Air Quality Awareness Week emphasizes that everyone can take personal steps to help improve our air quality. Air Quality Awareness Week is timed to the beginning of the ground-level ozone, or smog, season, which coincides with the onset of warmer weather. Each day during the week the DEP has focused on a specific air pollutant and control measures and recent actions taken by New Jersey to control that pollutant.
Details on each day’s theme and actions New Jersey has taken to address those pollutants can be found at: www.state.nj.us/dep/aqaweek.
Monday: Wood smoke. Burning firewood releases harmful particles. Reduce health impacts by burning only well-seasoned wood and upgrading to a cleaner U.S. EPA-certified wood stove or fireplace insert. Visit: www.epa.gov/burnwise/.
Tuesday: Consumer products. Common household products such as paints, cleaners and air fresheners may contain volatile organic compounds, which contribute to ground level ozone. VOC emissions can be reduced by avoid painting on hot days, and by purchasing consumer products and paints with little or no VOCs. Before you paint, check your local forecast using the Air Quality Index at www.njaqinow.net/Default.ltr.aspx.
Wednesday: Automotive emissions. Idling vehicles do not burn fuel completely, resulting in an increase in harmful emissions that contribute to the formation of ozone. Improve the air by idling no more than three minutes. Visit: www.njinspections.com/.
Thursday: Diesel engines. Diesel emissions contain more than 40 carcinogens, including fine particulate matter, or soot. Encourage your city or town to increase idling enforcement, purchase cleaner diesel vehicles and equipment, and require municipal construction contractors to use newer equipment or be retrofitted with emission controls. Visit: www.stopthesoot.org.
Friday: Dry cleaning. Perchloroethylene, also known as perc, is a cancer-causing chemical used in dry-cleaning and some consumer products, such as leather care products. Decrease exposure by purchasing clothing that does not require dry cleaning, or patronize dry cleaners that use more environmentally friendly techniques. Look at the label and make sure the consumer products you purchase are free of this chemical.
Check the air quality daily
Look up your local air quality forecast each day and act to reduce emissions, using these tools:
• Subscribe to EnviroFlash, an online alert system, for air quality information sent to your email inbox or cellphone. Visit: www.enviroflash.info. Get updates through Twitter and RSS feeds.
• Add a link to New Jersey’s air quality forecasts, complete with warnings for sensitive populations, to your website. Visit: www.njaqinow.net/
• Get real-time, location-specific air quality information sent straight to your mobile phone through EPA’s new mobile application, AIRNow. Visit: www.airnow.gov
We can all make a difference in our air quality, to improve our health and quality of life through some simple choices. We ask you to join the DEP and residents around the state this week and all year help in that effort.
William O’Sullivan is the director of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Air Quality.