Answers To Your Questions

QUESTION: Will you be fined for mowing your yard during an Ozone Alert?

ANSWER: No Fines - No penalties. The Ozone Alert! Program asks that you postpone using all gas-powered lawn equipment if you can on Ozone Alert! Days -- because it's the right thing to do. It will make breathing easier for children and adults who already have difficulty breathing on those days, and will help keep ozone levels down.

QUESTION: How do you report someone burning garbage (thick black smoke) on an Ozone Alert! Day? Is there a fine?

ANSWER: On Ozone Alert! Days, the public is requested to voluntarily postpone emission-forming activities - if possible. It's definitely not a good idea (nor is it good for the air quality) to be burning garbage on an Ozone Alert! Day. Ozone Alert! Days do not bring about any fines. The open burning may or may not be permissible. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) provides an open burning fact sheet: http://www.deq.state.ok.us/factsheets/local/perburn1.pdf. Illegal open burning and/or all environmental complaints may be reported to ODEQ by calling the "ODEQ Complaints Hotline" at 1-800-522-0206 or by on-line form on their website.

QUESTION: Where can I  see ozone days for last year? I would assume diesel creates ozone too is this true?

ANSWER: Ozone Alert! Days, since the program began - are listed in the "Ozone Alert Data" section of the website (or by clicking http://www.ozonealert.com/oalerts03.htm) And, YES, Yes, emissions from diesel vehicles are culprits in the ozone problem as well. Diesel emits some-though-less hydrocarbon (VOC) emissions than conventional gas; However, NOx emissions from diesel vehicles is significantly greater than conventional

QUESTION: I am a City of Tulsa Employee and work in an environmentally friendly workplace. We receive copies of City News, which is the City's monthly publication. Why is it that I open it and routinely see photos of lawnmower races that are held at functions meant to promote recycling and environmental awareness? Doesn't the Mayor realize that lawnmowers , especially highly souped up ones meant for racing, crank out an amazing amount of harmful ozone emissions? What kind of message is the City sending its employees and citizens? As a Tulsa resident that goes out of my way to have an electric mower and weedeater, and recycle, I'm dumbfounded. Can't these silly "races" be banned?

ANSWER: from Michael Patton, Executive Director, Metropolitan Environmental Trust.

You make some good points and I have echoed your sentiments to officials before. Let me help discuss this... bear with me, like most things, the answer is not simple. About 17% of all trash thrown away from a home each year is grass clippings... which means that 1 out of 6 trash trucks and miles driven could be off the road if people were not allowed to throw away grass clippings. Texas, Missouri, and Arkansas as well as more than half the states in the Union have banned the disposal of grass clippings, but Oklahoma has not.

The City of Tulsa was trying to do whatever it can to promote voluntary management of yard waste by having an event for the public focusing on mulching mowers and compost bins.

You have a good point about mowers being more harmful to air quality than cars. They lack emission controls and I have heard statistics that say one hour of mowing is equivalent to nearly 10 hours of driving, based on the type and conditions of both.

To defend the city, I think that their intentions are correct. If everyone stopped throwing away clippings, it would outweigh the harm of emissions from the mowers. They also scheduled the event in the spring, at a time when people get into the habit of mowing and before the ozone season.

On the other hand, I agree it was a stupid idea to race mowers to teach people how to mow better. The racing mowers just killed grass that day by driving around in a circle over and over and the crowd was more interested in the Nascar like appeal than the "grass clippings aren't trash" message that was intended.

I don't think the City is considering doing it again.

QUESTION: I remember hearing about a #number for reporting vehicles that were exhausting a lot of smoke. Does the program still exist? Please let me know and provide me the telephone # if it does.

ANSWER: The program you are referring to is the Smoking Vehicle Hotline. The number WAS 744-SMOG, but unfortunately the program no longer exists.

QUESTION: Why are the emission numbers so close to the threshold in Tulsa and how do larger cities contain this issue. ie. Chicago, K.City, LA, New York City.

ANSWER: Most metropolitan areas have Ozone problems during the warmer months of the year. Many are far worse than Tulsa's problem. Those that are in non-attainment, must file a plan with the EPA on how they will solve the problem. Plans vary with the local conditions. OzoneAlert.Com's links page lists several EPA sites where you can see how the problem is being handled in other areas.

QUESTION: Is Tulsa a primary area for ozone depletion during the summertime? I am curious if this is a seasonal issue.

ANSWER: Ozone is sometimes a confusing subject because it can be both good and bad. The Good Ozone is in the upper atmosphere and protects us from the sun's ultra violet rays. Depletion of the Good Ozone is a concern. Bad Ozone is ground level Ozone. It is a health hazard. Ground level Ozone is a problem in Tulsa primarily in the months of May through September. During that time, the weather conditions combine with hydrocarbon emissions to create ground level Ozone.

QUESTION: Just what are the geographical limits for ozone alerts?

ANSWER: Ozone Alerts here in the Tulsa Area refer to the Tulsa Metro Area -- Transportation Management Area specifically. It's all of Tulsa County plus portions of the surrounding counties. Something like drawing a circle around the City of Tulsa limits. Alerts are also called throughout the rest of the country specific to geographical and meteorological conditions in each unique Air Quality Management area. As the Tulsa area is in attainment for ozone, our 'air quality management area' is not yet formally defined by EPA but will at least include the TMA as identified above. If/when the designation for non-attainment process occurs, the formally defined area could include more than the TMA - even the entire Tulsa Statistical Area, which is all 7 of our surrounding counties, including Tulsa County

QUESTION: Are Ozone generators harmful?

ANSWER: Here is what the American Lung Assn. has to say about Ozone Generators: You be the judge.

These air cleaners utilize a chemical modification process instead of mechanical or electronic filters to "clean" the air. Ozone (referred to as trivalent oxygen or saturated oxygen by some manufacturers) has been used in water purification since 1893 (Wickramanayake, 1991). When used in water solutions such as cooling towers, ozone generators have demonstrated good control of reactive contaminants without creating negative side effects. Introducing ozone into the air stream can have beneficial effects under controlled conditions where humans are not exposed. For example, high concentrations of ozone are used to retard microbial growth in meat storage, and to control and counteract microbial growth and odors from fire and flood damaged buildings. However, ozone is of concern when considering spaces for human occupancy. The high concentration levels required for contaminant control are in conflict with potential health effects as established by authorities including the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (Boeniger, 1995), the US EPA (1995), and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

QUESTION: Can you explain how running your A/C, in your car, adds to the ozone problem? I thought they fixed that years ago.

ANSWER: NOx emissions are one of the two ground-level pollutants which combine in sunlight to make ozone. Recent studies have suggested that the use of air conditioners in autos can significantly increase tailpipe NOx emissions. Running a car's A/C increases the combustion temperature - due to the additional load of the AC's operation. This results in increased engine-out NOx emissions (due to thermal N2 and O2 reaction formation). Newer cars are certainly cleaner than in previous years - and catalysts are getting better and better. But in general, running a car's AC still results in a higher NOx tailpipe emission.

QUESTION: I have been watching this site very closely during Ozone Alert Days. I am confused...Why does TV use the number 100 for an exceeding count and this site uses .085?

ANSWER: OzoneAlert.Com lists the actual Ozone concentration readings from the monitoring sites which are the numbers used by the EPA to determine if there is a violation of the Clean Air Act. The TV stations have chosen to use the Air Quality Index, which is a mathematical formula. An 8 hr. average Ozone Concentration reading of ".085 ppm" is equal to an Air Quality Index reading of "100"

QUESTION: Is it o.k. to operate diesel powered equipment in the metro area on days that are declared ozone alert days?

ANSWER: Thanks for your question. It is best not to operate diesel powered equipment on Ozone Alert! Days. Diesel emissions do include ozone precursors. Although it’s important to remember that all Ozone Alert! Day actions are voluntary …that is, not enforceable, fines, etc.; by not using diesel equipment on those day, you are helping out. Ozone precursors include both hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide emissions. Diesel equipment emits less hydrocarbon emissions than gasoline powered equipment does, but much more NOx emissions than gasoline. If it is something that must be taken care of on an Alert Day, it is best to wait until as late in the day as possible…better even after the sun starts to go down. (Worst of all would be early in the morning, as those emissions would be in the airshed for the sun to ‘cook’ into ozone)