Columbiana County officials are right to be upset about the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's possible designation of the county as being in violation of air pollution standards.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency announced last summer the county was among seven in Ohio found to have sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions in excess of the new maximum federal standard of 75 parts per billion an hour. The county's reading was 90, and the old standard was 140 ppb over 24 hours.
The problem is the county's only SO2 monitoring station is located in the East End of East Liverpool, which is in the extreme southeast corner of the county where Ohio borders Pennsylvania and West Virginia. It is also within a half-mile of Waste Technologies Industries' hazardous waste incinerator.
High SO2 levels are indeed a health concern. SO2 is produced primarily by motor vehicles, coal-fired electric plants and large industrial plants. SO2 is a key component of smog, soot and acid rain, and the pollutant is believed to contribute to respiratory ailments.
But, as county officials pointed out, a high SO2 designation could force local companies and businesses interested in moving here to undertake costly pollution control measures they view as unnecessarily burdensome and could change their mind about locating here. And the East End reading does not necessarily reflect the air quality of the entire county.
As Columbiana County Port Authority CEO Tracy Drake questioned, "How can all of Columbiana County come under a nonattainment designation under this methodology?"
And, knowing that our statistics are based on one precariously located monitoring station makes us question the validity of all Ohio EPA high level designations. Is every county in Ohio judged on the basis of one monitoring station and is the location of that station taken into consideration when measuring the air quality?
Heidi Griesmer of the OEPA, even confirmed that "it looks like most of the (East Liverpool) emissions are coming from Jefferson County." How is our county supposed to combat that?
County officials are protesting this possible designation, and we hope the EPA takes their concerns into consideration.