New ozone regulations to take effect

By Nina Gougis

Northeast Illinois counties will have until 2010 to meet new, stricter clean air regulations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told state officials April 15.

The eight northeast Illinois counties were designated as “moderate ozone risk” areas.

Nearly 500 counties in the United States, mostly in Southern California and the eastern third of the country, currently do not meet the new regulations.

The Illinois counties include Kane, Will, Cook and DuPage, Illinois EPA spokeswoman Kim Kuntzman said.

The EPA reported it enacted the regulations because of the growing awareness of the potential danger of ground-level ozone, which can irritate lung passages and reduce lung functioning.

According to the EPA, the major sources of ground-level ozone include cars, power plants and other large industrial facilities.

Edward Doty, environmental scientist for the EPA, said that, unlike other regions in the country, Illinois has had plans to clean up the air and reduce ozone levels for some time.

These regulations will have relatively little effect on the state plans that are already in place, Doty said.

“Illinois is not looking as badly impacted as other areas of the country,” Doty said. “They will have to enforce the laws that are already in place.”

Kuntzman said that although state officials will not decide on a plan until August 2005, they will focus more on large-scale pollution sources than the average citizen.

“For the Chicago area, we do not suspect that there will be any significant changes for the average citizen,” Kuntzman said.

Kuntzman said the state might enforce tougher air pollutant regulations in factories and power plants as a result of the new standards.

Bharat Mathur, acting U.S. EPA administrator, said states have made significant environmental progress overall.

“The good news here is that air is getting cleaner,” Mathur told Illinois officials. “Now to pick up the pace of environmental progress, we’ve raised the bar with this new tougher standard.”