Times Herald-Record: Ulster gets "C" for air quality; 4 others fail

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By Alyssa Sunkin

Times Herald-Record

Published: 2:00 AM - 04/29/10

Ulster County is the only county in the Hudson Valley to earn a passing grade for its air quality from the American Lung Association.

Though Westchester, Putnam, Orange and Dutchess counties made gains in improving ozone levels in the air, they still received a grade of "F" on the lung association's annual State of the Air 2010 report, which was released Wednesday.

The State of the Air report, which studies levels of ozone and particle pollution, found that Ulster County residents are breathing easier, as the county's six unhealthy ozone days — compared to 13 cited in the 2009 report — scored a "C" grade.

Ulster County got an "F" in 2009.

Though Ulster's health commissioner, La Mar Hasbrouck, is pleased with the passing grade, he believes more should be done, especially since officials are working to make Ulster the healthiest county in the state.

"Obviously a 'C' isn't what we want to end up with," he said.

Nineteen of 33 counties studied for the report failed.

Rockland and Sullivan counties weren't included because they don't have air quality monitors.

"We point to Ulster as a model for what we'd like to see from every failing county in the state," said Michael Seilback, vice president for public policy and communications with the American Lung Association in New York.

Ozone is formed when fumes from gas and other fuels bake in the sun.

Particle pollution, more commonly known as smog, is a cocktail of ash, soot, diesel, exhaust chemicals and aerosols.

Orange County officials contest the "C" grade for particle pollution, since measurements in the report do not reflect those taken from the county's monitor in Middle Hope.

But they don't excuse the ozone grade.

"Ozone is a particular concern, noticeable on hotter days that, we have to be conscientious about," the county's planning commissioner, David Church said.

The county is turning to clean diesel or hybrid buses as public transit vehicles come up for replacement.

Officials are encouraging people to change their driving habits.

The report shows those changes have already made a difference, one that might lead to fewer asthma attacks, coughing, wheezing, chest pain and perhaps even death.

 

How our counties fared

Dutchess: "F" for ozone levels; 14 days with unhealthy ozone levels. No particle pollution measurement.

Orange: "F" for ozone levels; 16 days with unhealthy ozone levels, three days with very unhealthy ozone levels. "C" for particle pollution; four unhealthy particle days.

Putnam: "F" for ozone levels; 19 days with unhealthy ozone levels. No particle pollution measurement.

Ulster: "C" for ozone levels; six days with unheatlthy ozone levels. No particle pollution measurement.

Westchester: "F" for zone levels; 28 days with unhealthy ozone levels, five days with very unhealthy ozone levels. "C" for particle pollution; four unhealthy particle days.

Sullivan County doesn't have air quality monitors and wasn't included in the study

Source: American Lung Association's State of the Air 2010 report