All East Valley cities will soon have new restrictions on leaf blowers, fires and driving on unpaved surfaces as part of a statewide effort to reduce air pollution.
Many of the new restrictions apply only during high pollution advisories, which have ranged from just two to as many as 31 days a year in recent years.
Tempe and Mesa are moving to approve the restrictions this month. Gilbert, Chandler and Scottsdale have done so in recent weeks.
During the high pollution advisories, the communities will ban outdoor fires and the use of leaf blowers. At all times, vehicles are banned from driving or parking on surfaces that aren't paved or stabilized to reduce the amount of dust that's kicked up. Anybody who has seen the amount of dust a single leaf blower can kick up should appreciate the kind of air quality improvements that are possible during the bans, said Mark Shaffer, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
"If people actually follow the laws, it should help a whole heck of a lot," Shaffer said.
The communities are reacting to a state law passed last year that aims to boost air quality and prevent violations of federal air pollution standards. The federal government has threatened to cut off highway funding if Arizona doesn't reduce air pollution.
The new restrictions specifically target pollution particles 10 microns in diameter or smaller, referred to as PM-10. By comparison, human hairs are 100 microns in width. The PM-10 particles can trigger asthma attacks and increase the odds of developing lung cancer. Cities are taking additional measures in addition to the new restrictions.
For example, Tempe will soon train code inspectors and some other employees to watch for air quality violations at construction sites or other places. Though Maricopa County is responsible for enforcing those violations, the city employees could inform county officials and warn contractors, said Don Hawkes, Tempe's water utilities manager.
The impact of the new regulations could vary wildly from year to year. The Valley had 31 advisories in 2006 and 28 in 2005. But it had just two a year in the two years before that, and just three last year.
To learn if a high pollution advisory is in effect, call (602) 506-6400.