Potato Plants, Summer Ozone and Pollution Transport- Air Mail! Newsletter

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
DEC Delivers - Information to keep you connected and informed from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
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This Month’s Topics:

  • Public & Stakeholder Participation InformationPostage stamp.
  • Ozone Research Takes to the Sky with LISTOS
  • Air Pollution Knows No Borders
  • A Slow Start to Ozone Season in 2019
  • Quick Tips for a Clean Air Summer
  • Join the Team!
  • Dates to Remember
  • AQI Alerts for Respiratory Health

Public & Stakeholder Participation Information:

  • Proposed Part 257, Air Quality Standards and Classifications. Part 257, Subparts 257-2 through 257-10, list the NYS Air Quality Standards (SAQS) promulgated by DEC over several decades. A number of these SAQS are outdated and have been superseded by Federal air quality standards and are proposed to be repealed or revised. A hearing for the proposed rule will be held in Albany NY on Sept. 16, 2019.  Written comments on the proposed rule may be submitted until 5 p.m. on September 23, 2019.
  • Proposed Subpart 227-2,  Reasonably Available Control Technology (RACT) for Major Facilities of Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) and Part 200, General Provisions. The proposal for Subpart 227-2 will entail the removal of dated references, emission limitations, and practices. The proposal for Part 200 will entail the updating of references. Following adoption, Subpart 227-2 will be submitted to EPA as a revision to the State Implementation Plan for NYS. A hearing for the proposed rule will be held in Albany NY on Sept. 16, 2019. Written comments on the proposed rule may be submitted until 5 p.m. on September 23, 2019.
  • Various projects in the Environmental Notice Bulletin (ENB).

Additional information and access to past announcements are on our Public & Stakeholder Participation Information page.

Air Mail! is the publication to announce public and stakeholder information about air quality topics. All NYS residents are environmental stakeholders – we welcome anyone to join the information sessions and other opportunities posted here.

Ozone Research Takes to the Sky with LISTOS

If you lived in or visited Long Island or NYC last summer, you may have noticed some low flying planes. Several of them were part of the Long Island Sound Tropospheric Ozone Study (LISTOS). DEC has partnered with National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, other state agencies and universities to research ozone formation in the NY metro area using various cool instruments on boats, airplanes and land-based monitoring stations.AirLISTOS

Ozone is created when nitrogen oxide emissions from vehicles and power plants mix with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and are exposed to sunlight. LISTOS uses information about these pollutants, how they interact, and how weather patterns influence them, to help predict future ozone events.

For example, this time last year, Rockland County experienced the highest levels of ozone it has seen in the last 11 years. This was the result of a weather event that pushed ozone-polluted air up the east coast through Washington, DC, New Jersey, and NYC, into Rockland County. Events such as these help DEC scientists analyze the effects of pollutants from upwind regions.

The impacts of ozone pollution on people can be severe, most notably for those with preexisting heart or lung disease. You can help reduce ozone pollution by greening your commute and limiting your use of products, such as hairspray and deodorant, that contain VOCs. While the environmental factors of ozone events cannot be controlled, LISTOS data can help identify ways to reduce human contribution to these events.

Photo caption: A LISTOS aircraft with an air intake tube on the nose for sampling the air.

Photo credit: Dr. John E. Mak, Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences

Air Pollution Knows No Borders

Wherever the wind blows, air pollution comes with it and can even cross state borders. When air pollution travels from one state to another with natural weather patterns, it is called interstate transport. New York State is affected by this kind of pollution because we are downwind from out-of-state coal power plants, other large air pollution sources, and metro areas in mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states whose emissions can easily be transported to us.Air monitoring stations

In some areas of the state, including Long Island, NYC and several western counties, this pollution diminishes air quality and interferes with meeting Federal air quality standards. At the air monitoring station in Dunkirk, NY, high sulfur dioxide levels are attributed to out-of-state polluters. Sulfur dioxide is known to contribute to the formation of ozone – another pollutant monitored at this station.

EPA recently proposed to deny a DEC petition that sought to address the effects of interstate transport. If EPA finalizes this denial, as it has done in similar previous actions, upwind states will not be required to regulate their emissions to protect other states’ air quality. Regardless, NYS will continue to take steps to reduce air pollution (including challenging EPA's decisions), benefitting our own and our neighbors’ environment. Visit our website to learn more about how you can keep our air clean.

Photo caption: Map of air quality monitoring stations in NYS from the DEC air monitoring website. Dunkirk, the most western station, measures high levels of sulfur dioxide and ozone pollution coming from out-of-state sources.

A Slow Start to Ozone Season in 2019

Notice something different this ozone season? Ozone season runs from April to September, and air quality advisories have come out as early as May in past years. This year, the first advisory was not issued until the end of June. Air quality advisories are sent out when the Air Quality Index (AQI) reaches a value of 100 or higher indicating an exceedance of a national ambient air quality standard, alerting the public to take precautions. Even if there are no air quality advisories, pollution levels can still be high enough locally to have negative impacts on people and the environment.Air potato leaves

For example, in late May, the air monitor in Riverhead, NY recorded short-term ozone values that were high enough to cause damage to sensitive plants, yet did not trigger an air quality advisory. By mid-June, signs of ozone damage were seen in potato crops on Long Island. The potato plants were especially affected by this because they were in a period of active growth. Research on Long Island has documented the large impact that high ozone levels can have on plant productivity. When plants are exposed to ozone, they can also experience an increased risk of disease and insect damage.

Prolonged exposure to air pollution, even at AQI levels less than 100, can have detrimental impacts on people as well. Sensitive groups, such as the young and elderly, and those with asthma, are most prone to health issues related to air pollution. To avoid the negative effects of air pollution, it is best to limit physical activity and keep yourself and your pets indoors when the AQI is predicted to be high. Be sure to check the AQI and watch out for DEC air quality advisories before going outside for the day during ozone season.

Photo caption: A front (left) and back (right) view of a potato plant collected from Long Island. The brown spots indicate ozone damage, which can be seen better on the backs of the leaves. This damage is also called bronzing, as it can make the leaves appear shiny.

Photo credit: Dr. Margaret McGrath, Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant Science.

Quick Tips for a Clean Air Summer

School is out and summer is here, New York. It’s time to get outside and enjoy the many hiking, fishing and camping opportunities the state has to offer. Be kind to our air by using these clean air tips when you’re out and about this summer: 

  • Carpool or take public transportation to reduce ozone formation.Backyard camping
  • Never burn trash, even when you are camping, to avoid breathing in harmful air pollution.
  • Choose lotion or pump spray sunscreen and bug repellent instead of aerosol sprays to reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) pollution.
  • Reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants by conserving electricity at home to keep our waterways acid rain free.
  • Keep an eye on the AQI, and plan accordingly if an air advisory is issued.
  • Visit our website for more tips and information on how to keep the air clean.

Even small actions can add up to big benefits when it comes to keeping our air clean. So, let’s all get outside, enjoy the fresh air, and have some summer fun!

Join the Team

Do you have a bachelor's degree or higher in engineering or engineering technology? NYS employs more than 2,000 engineers in various agencies across the state, including DEC. Learn more about career opportunities in engineering with NYS on Civil Service's website.

Dates to Remember:

  • July Through December 31, 2019: Catskills Fire Tower Five Challenge - Experience the spectacular views from the top of five fire towers by taking the Catskills Fire Tower Five Challenge. Climb all five towers in the Catskill Park, take a selfie at each tower and submit to have a chance to win prizes! See our website for more details, and remember to check the AQI before you climb!
  • Through October 8, 2019: GreenNY Sustainability Lunchtime Learning Webinars – A monthly series covering numerous topics of interest like pollinators, invasives, and recycling. Register for the webinars at the GreenNY page.
  • August 9: Smokey Bear’s Birthday – Smokey says, “Only you can prevent wildfires.” Do your part by building safe fires with only local, dry firewood. This will keep our air clean and our yards wildfire free.

Stay Informed about Your Air Quality

NY's ozone season runs from April through September. DEC publishes ground-level ozone forecasts during ozone season, and particulate matter pollution forecasts year-round using a scale called the Air Quality Index (AQI). DEC sends out an air quality alert when there is a high AQI value, which indicates polluted air. Individuals with pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular conditions, and people who exercise outdoors should take caution during an air quality alert. Find out if an Air Quality Alert is in effect by calling the toll-free Ozone Hotline: 1-800-535-1345.

The AQI can be accessed in three ways:

We would like to know what you think. Please send your Air Mail! questions or comments to us at DAR.web@dec.ny.gov.