Augusta still has an ozone problem but the city gets a passing mark on air pollution and is one of the few major cities in Georgia to get one, according to a report released Wednesday by the American Lung Association.
In its State of the Air 2014, the group gives Richmond County a “D” for seven high ozone days from 2010-12, but a “B” for only one high-particle pollution day during that time period, and a passing mark overall.
“It’s good news for everybody who breathes air,” said Paul DeCamp, the deputy director for Augusta Planning and Development Department and a member of the CSRA Air Quality Alliance.
Columbia County got a “C” for three ozone days but was not rated for particle pollution and got an incomplete. Aiken and Edgefield counties did even better, getting “A’s” for having no ozone days during that time period.
“That’s good for them,” DeCamp said.
Of the major cities in Georgia, Augusta, Athens and Savannah were the only ones to receive passing marks, although some suburban counties in other areas fared similarly.
Several years ago, Augusta was on the group’s top-25 “Most Polluted” list and the area was in danger of not meeting air pollution standards, but starting in 2007 a series of meetings led to the air quality alliance and a number of different initiatives were launched.
For instance, schools in Richmond and Columbia counties adopted no-idling policies for school buses to help reduce emissions, and diesel engines overall are getting cleaner.
Air quality has also been helped by a number of industry initiatives, DeCamp said. An example is Savannah River Site’s converting an old coal-fired steam plant into one that burns wood chips, greatly reducing its emissions, he said.