New standards from the Environmental Protection Agency will not greatly affect Clinton County, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. But that does not leave it in the clear.
The EPA tightened its rules limiting the amount of sulfur-dioxide emissions on June 3. The only place in Iowa listed as somewhere in danger of breaking the new rules was Muscatine County.
Clinton was not in danger of sulfur-dioxide, according to those with the Iowa DNR’s Air Quality Control Department.
However, Clinton County is uncomfortably close to the EPA’s limit on fine particles in the air.
Fine particles is the term given to any solid or liquid, non-water particle found in outdoor air. People could breathe these particles in, where they can build up in the respiratory system and cause health problems.
Mindy Kralicek, Air Quality Information specialist for the Iowa DNR, says Clinton County’s fine particle levels are uncomfortably close, but still below the EPA’s safety limit.
“They are close,” she said, “and depending on weather events or traffic patterns ... it would be very easy to exceed the limit. It’s very important that they are conscious about that.”
Currently, fine air particles are limited to 35 micrometers, or 35 thousandths of a millimeter, per cubic meter. Jim McGraw, also with the Iowa DNR Air Quality Control, said two recent readings for Clinton came in at 28 and 32 micrometers per cubic meter. He added the DNR has held numerous meetings with city and county officials, to try and lower these levels.
Advocates for clean air also point to ethanol development plants as big sources of pollution. But McGraw said it was not a big factor in the county’s air quality.
“Ethanol plants, especially the new ones, all have pretty good controls on them for the pollutants we typically regulate,” he said.
People can monitor air quality online, at iowacleanair.com.