Who We Are
The Air Quality Alliance of the Chattahoochee Valley (AQA) is a region-wide volunteer initiative of government, business, and members of the community interested in public health and sustainable economic growth in the seven-county, two-state Chattahoochee Valley region. The alliance works with the valley’s businesses, schools, organizations, and citizens to educate them on the importance of improving air quality.
As the Columbus region experiences unprecedented economic growth and development, we also are facing issues with our regional air quality. Specifically, particulate matter, one of six criteria pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act, is of increasing concern here in the Columbus-Phenix City area.
Particulate matter (PM) is a complex mixture of extremely small solids and liquid droplets suspended in air. PM may be composed of soil and dust particles, smoke, organic chemicals, metals, and acids (such as nitrates and sulfates). PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) refers to microscopic particles having a diameter equal to or smaller than 2.5 micrometers, or about one-thirtieth the size of a human hair. Fine particulate matter poses a greater risk to human health than coarse particulates because it more easily enters the lungs. PM is known to aggravate heart and lung diseases, and is associated with heart attacks, chronic bronchitis, and asthma.
The US EPA has established national air quality standards for both 24-hour and annual PM levels, as well as for other pollutants; areas that meet those standards are designated as being in attainment, areas not meeting the standards are called nonattainment areas. Based on the most recent monitor data, the Columbus-Phenix City area has been identified as exceeding the 24-hour PM2.5 standard. EPA is scheduled to make final designations in December 2009, therefore we have an opportunity to take actions to reduce PM2.5 and prevent being designated as nonattainment for the 24-hour standard. In addition to the health risks of PM mentioned above, there are economic disadvantages as well. Areas designated as nonattainment are subject to general and transportation conformity requirements for at least twenty years, and are also subject to more restrictive requirements for new construction or modification of major air pollution sources.
In March 2008, the EPA established new standards for ozone pollution, which will become effective in June 2008. The EPA is expected to make final nonattainment designations in June of 2010.Based on recent monitor data, the Columbus-Phenix City region may eventually face nonattainment status for ozone, as well as for particle pollution.