The City Council will shift its focus to air quality on Tuesday, when it considers a plan to keep Wichita’s warm, humid summertime air as clean as possible.
The plan, called “Ozone Advance,” will be unveiled during a 9:30 a.m. council workshop at City Hall.
The detailed plan, compiled by Tonya Bronleewe, an air quality specialist with the city, is intended to make sure ozone levels stay at acceptable levels and keep the city out of potentially costly trouble with the Environmental Protection Agency.
City Manager Robert Layton said the city’s battle against ozone pollution has come a long way in the past 18 months.
“I think the big move is alerting people a day in advance when we think there are going to be ozone issues,” Layton said. “Tonya has done a wonderful job getting the information to the public so the city can alter its behaviors and then also trying to alert the public to what they can do to keep ozone levels down.”
The stakes in the city’s ozone pollution battle are high: potentially millions in higher costs to businesses and individuals.
“At one time, we estimated the metropolitan area could incur an additional $10 million in costs annually to comply, in extra costs to manufacturers and our residents,” Layton said. “It would impact the kind of gasoline we could buy, the inspection requirements we’d face.
“If we can stay in compliance, we’re going to be in a much better position as a city.”
A couple of factors affect Wichita’s ozone levels, Layton said. And neither is easily controlled locally.
Generally, hot and humid summer days are the enemy of ozone compliance. And burning materials in Kansas and Oklahoma can cause further problems, he said.
Lately, Wichita’s compliance record has edged toward trouble. According to figures in city documents, the city’s ozone measurements were at or slightly above acceptable levels from 2011 through 2013. The city measures air quality at three sites in the county: Peck, the county health department and Sedgwick.
The plan includes a variety of tips for the public – for every day during warm weather and for days when an ozone alert is forecast for the following day.
At the city level, a no-idling policy will be in place for city vehicles. When ozone alerts are forecast, expect delays in painting, solvent, mowing and small-engine use. Non-essential work and driving will be postponed. All city refueling will occur before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. And alternative transportation, such as the city’s Free Fares for bus rides and carpooling, will be promoted.