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Bexar County designated as nonattainment for ozone

By Sarah Otto | 502nd Civil Engineer Squadron | Aug. 28, 2018

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —

Bexar County was designated as nonattainment for ozone, July 17, 2018, under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards set forth by the Clean Air Act.

San Antonio was the last major city in Texas to attain the nonattainment status. This designation was published in the Federal Register (https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-07-25/pdf/2018-15919.pdf), and it will officially go into effect Sept. 24, 2018.

Ozone at higher altitudes occurs naturally, forming a protective layer that blocks ultraviolet, or UV rays, but is harmful to human health and the environment at the ground level. Poor air quality can have mild to severe repercussions on your health, with the elderly, children under 14, athletes, outdoor workers, pregnant women, and those with respiratory or heart diseases being the most at risk.

Short-term symptoms include: irritation of the eyes/nose/throat and shortness of breath. Long-term exposure can lead to loss of lung capacity/decreased lung function and development/aggravation of diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.

Ground-level ozone, or smog, reaches its highest concentration during the afternoon and early evening hours. On Ozone Action Days, sensitive groups should schedule high-exertion activities in the morning hours, and indoor or low-exertion outdoor activities in the afternoons.

Ozone is created through chemical reactions involving sunlight and emissions from materials such as paints or solvents – volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, – and from nitrogen oxides, or NOx, created from combustion processes, such as from vehicle engines, generators, lawn mowers, etc.

Bexar County is being classified as “marginal” on the severity scale, and has two years to reduce air emissions and regain attainment status.

Joint Base San Antonio has already been doing their part and has made great strides in combating air pollution.

Since 2005, NOx emissions have been reduced by more than 90 percent by implementing best management practices at power production sites and by investing in solar power generation, van-pool programs and enacting an anti-idling policy. VOC emissions have steadily decreased on JBSA by decreasing paint and solvent use and buying low-VOC chemicals wherever possible. With the nonattainment designation, JBSA will be looking into further programs to help reduce emissions.

While we do not know what restrictions will be required, there are always things you can do to help improve our air quality, such as: 

  • Limit your driving: carpool, use mass transit, walk, ride a bike, teleconference and use online services, such as electronic banking.
  • Operate your vehicle properly. Avoid jackrabbit starts and drive the speed limit.
  • Avoid excessive idling of your vehicle. Avoid drive-through restaurants, turn off your vehicle while loading/unloading, etc.
  • Refuel your vehicle after 6 p.m. on Ozone Action Days. Sign up for Enviroflash at http://www.environflash.info, or get the Enviro Air Quality Index app for air alert notifications.
  • Make sure you follow the recommended maintenance schedule for your vehicle.
  • Keep your vehicle’s tires properly inflated.
  • Do not continue dispensing fuel after the pump “clicks.”
  • Replace your vehicle’s gas cap securely after refueling.
  • Use electric or hand-powered lawn care equipment.
  • Conserve energy at home. Turn off lights/electronics when not in use, use energy efficient light bulbs and appliances, run the clothes washer and dishwasher only when full.
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR label when buying home or office equipment.
  • For self-help projects on base, use water-based or solvent free paints, primers, specialty coatings, sealants, caulk and adhesives that say “Low VOC” on the label whenever possible.
  • If you have R134A Refrigerant for A/C in your home or car, if possible replace it with 410A/407C.
  • If re-roofing at home, ensure coal tar is not in the ingredients. You will need to look at the Safety Data Sheet to determine this.
  • For on base, construction and renovation contract will be required to have a New Source Review, or NSR, Permitting process initiated, before construction, and must be coordinated with the JBSA Environmental Office and must have a Permit Construction Authorization, or PCA, from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or TCEQ.

For more information on nonattainment, please go to: https://www.epa.gov/ozone-designations/designations-san-antonio-metropolitan-area, or for specific questions contact the JBSA Environmental offices at JBSA-Lackland at 210-671-4844; at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston at 210-221-1142; or at JBSA-Randolph at 210-652-4668.