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DNREC's two petitions show why Delawareans should care about air quality

via Talen Energy

Officials from Delaware’s Division of Natural Resources and Environmental Control say the state’s polluted air is a consequence of emissions from upwind states and they’ve filed two petitions with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to justify their case.

Delaware has a problem with ozone, and it’s something Division of Air Quality Director Ali Mirzakhalili says is not the First State’s fault.

“Our upwind neighbors, those emissions cause a lot of our problems and we need help in order for us to provide the citizens with clean air,” Mirzakhalili said.

These upwind states include Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and North Carolina among others, but DNREC’s latest petition focuses on the Harrison Power Plant in West Virginia. In July, DNREC filed a petition asking the EPA to investigate the Brunner Island Power Plant near York, Pennsylvania. 

Mirzakhalili said the expectation is the EPA would require Brunner Island Power Plant and Harrison Power Plant to reduce their emissions that affect Delaware’s air. The EPA initially had 90 days to respond to the petition, but they’ve asked for a six-month extension to look into DNREC’s request, Mirzakhalili said.

The petitions are just one part of DNREC’s efforts to improve air quality.

“We’ve cleaned up our car standards, we’ve cleaned up our fuel standards, we’ve cleaned up the emissions from industry,” Mirzakhalili said. “We’ve adopted regulations, anything from the gas can that you use to the nail polish that you use to the type of paint that you use.”  

What is ozone?

Delaware has also tried to reduce air pollution by declaring “ozone action days”; when the state predicts high ozone levels, DNREC asks residents to avoid putting gas in their cars and cutting grass.

Ozone is a colorless, odorless gas composed of three oxygen atoms (O3) formed by the presence of high temperatures and sunlight. It poses an issue to people who have pre-existing respiratory problems.

“It has an impact like a sunburn on your lungs,” Mirzakhalili said. “It burns the tissue, it irritates it.”

But it is difficult to point the blame to a source that “emits ozone” because ozone is not directly emitted, Mirzakhalili said. Rather, it’s a combination of volatile organic solvent emissions, for example, tailpipe emissions from cars.

Mirzakhalili said air pollution in Delaware has been reduced by 70 percent since 1990.

Ozone levels are monitored year-round, but they generally peak from April to October.

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