The City of Wichita is preparing for ozone season, when air quality standards will be carefully monitored.
Ground-level ozone is a form of pollution that is caused by emissions from gas engines, as well as paints and solvents. When levels are high, it can be harmful to young children, people over the age of 65 and those with respiratory illnesses.
According to Baylee Cunningham, air quality specialist for the City of Wichita, there are 300,000 people in south-central Kansas who are sensitive to ground-level ozone. The pollutant is more prominent in warmer months. City officials will monitor ozone levels from April 1 to Oct. 31.
Cunningham says Wichita must maintain low ozone levels to be compliant with EPA guidelines.
“If we were to go out of compliance, or be designated non-attainment, it would cost the city tens of millions of dollars,” she says.
The EPA could force gas stations to pump higher grade gasoline, or implement more stringent emissions inspections for cars.
On days when ozone levels are high, alerts will be issued on electronic message boards along commuter routes and on social media. When ozone alerts are issued, city officials will adjust local government operations and ask residents to carpool to work, use public transportation and limit the use of paints and solvents to after 6 p.m.
Cunningham says the city will also reach out to area businesses and ask that they be aware of high-ozone days and do what they can to limit their output of pollutants.
In a related measure, the Wichita Fire Department has extended a burn ban for all of April. All outside fires must be limited to barbecue grills.
Cunningham says the massive wildfires that burned through hundreds of square miles in south-central Kansas didn’t have a significant impact on Wichita’s ozone levels.
Follow Sean Sandefur on Twitter @SeanSandefur
To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.