Each year The State of Texas collects ambient air quality monitoring data to determine if any areas pose a possible risk to human and/or environmental health. The US EPA created the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) levels and the Attainment/Nonattainment classifications to signify areas across the country where pollutant concentrations are above set levels. The State of Texas built upon this NAAQS program with the development of the ‘Air Pollutant Watch List’ (APWL), used specifically to address areas within Texas where ambient air quality monitoring data reveals high concentrations of air toxics. But where the NAAQS program looks at only a hand-full of contaminants, the APWL addresses over 150 known species. Having a contaminant included on the watch list in a certain area leads to a system of tightened permitting programs and state agency oversight on existing and proposed new projects that could potentially emit that contaminant.
As of this month, these APWL-related regulatory efforts once again have showed positive results as monitoring data illustrates that the Beaumont area is no longer out of compliance with the Texas state property line standard. As a result, sulfur dioxide will be de-listed from the Air Pollutant Watch List.
According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, following significant changes made by local industry to control sulfur dioxide (SO2), implemented as a result of the [APWL] listing, no exceedances of the standard have been recorded since 2012. In fact, the reported SO2 emissions in the Beaumont area decreased from 3,454 tons per year in 2005 to 828 tons per year in 2014; a reduction of 76 percent. Residents of Beaumont can breathe a little easier knowing these regulations are directly improving their air.
You can find more information on current Air Pollutant Watch List contaminants and areas through the TCEQ’s website.