Ozone Action Day banners will fly in Hays County on days of high ozone levels. Hays County photo.
As Hays County approaches “non-attainment” status for ozone levels under Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines, county officials are attempting to alert citizens on days when ozone levels are deemed unhealthy.
The Hays County Courthouse, the county’s Personal Health Department on Broadway Street in San Marcos and the Precinct 4 office in Dripping Springs will fly orange ozone alert banners on weekdays when the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) deems the ozone level “unhealthy for sensitive groups” or higher.
According to the Clean Air Force of Central Texas, high ozone concentrations can cause damage to human health, vegetation and to many common materials we use. High concentrations of ozone can cause shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, headaches, nausea, eye and throat irritation and lung damage. The effects can be worse on people with certain existing health conditions and those who spend a significant amount of time outdoors.
Hays County is part of a five-county region in Central Texas that is in danger of failing to meet the federal standard for ground-level ozone, commonly known as smog. It is expected that the EPA will tighten standards in August.
If Hays County reaches a “non-attainment” status under EPA guidelines, new federal regulations could apply that would require stricter and more expensive tailpipe emission testing for vehicles, loss of federal highway funding and stricter emission standards for business and industry.
During this ozone season, which runs from April through October, the county asks residents to reduce ozone-forming emissions by taking simple actions. The county asks residents to limit driving by combining errands, telecommuting, taking lunch to work, etc. The county also asks citizens to ride the bus or carpool, avoid idling vehicles, refuel vehicles after 6 p.m., wait until after 6 p.m. to mow lawns or use other gas-powered equipment, keep vehicles well-maintained and tire pressure at proper levels, and reduce electricity usage during the day
More information about ways to reduce air pollution is available from the Clean Air Force at www.cleanairforce.org. The TCEQ has additional information about air quality standards and reporting at www.tceq.state.tx.us.