Call it a 12-step program for polluters, and yes, that means all of us. Maricopa County officials are asking the public to clean up its act by following a list of pollutioncontrol measures dubbed the “Dirty Dozen.”
The Board of Supervisors and Maricopa County Air Quality Department plan to hold a news conference today to explain the public awareness campaign and point residents to a new Web site, www. bringbackblue.org, that promises to help restore the county’s blue skies with the community’s help.
“Maricopa County is in serious danger with its air particulate levels,” Air Quality Department spokeswoman Holly Ward said. “Potentially we are looking at losing federal highway dollars.”
The density of airborne particulate matter such as smoke, dust, ash and other vaporous substances far exceeded the federal health standard during the past two years, Ward said.
Those particles reduce visibility, exacerbate respiratory problems, make water acidic and deplete soil nutrients, among other negative effects.
Counties are allowed no more than three days of excessive particulate levels during a three-year period that began in 2004.
As of Jan. 1, Maricopa County had exceeded the limit 46 times.
As a result, county officials have until the end of the year to explain how they will get the polluted air back to within federal health guidelines.
If the county doesn’t begin reducing particulates by 5 percent each year, it will remain in the current state of noncompliance, known as “non-attainment.”
Non-attainment is not a crime, nor is it punishable under any civil law, but the federal government does have one significant means of leverage: It can withhold the millions of dollars allocated toward building Valley roads each year.
Ward said the public awareness campaign will not — and cannot — be the only component of the county’s plan. Officials also will consider new rules and regulations for industry.
The county is wrapping up a study to determine the biggest sources of particulates, the results of which will be released Jan. 30.
In the meantime, Ward said the dirty dozen list is a good start that gives everyone a chance to get involved in the cleanup. “They’re easy things that everyone can do,” she said. The ‘Dirty Dozen’
12 Steps to reducing Valley pollution
1: Drive less, particularly on pollution advisory days. Reduce the number of trips you take in your car.
2: Don’t drive in the dirt.
3: Drive slowly on unpaved roads.
4: Don’t use leaf blowers and other equipment that raise a lot of dust.
5: Avoid using gas-powered lawn and garden equipment.
6: Maintain your landscape. Cover loose dirt with plants or gravel.
7: Reduce fireplace and woodburning stove use, and don’t use your wood-burning fireplace or stove on no-burn days.
8: Consider using gas instead of wood. If you use a wood-burning stove or fireplace insert, make sure it meets EPA design specifications and burn only dry, seasoned wood.
9: Conserve electricity.
10: Don’t burn leaves, trash or other materials.
11: Report serious offenders to the Maricopa County Air Quality Department.
12: Support laws, rules, and efforts to make our air healthier.