Local environmental officials have warned for several years that the Wichita area may face stricter regulations if it didn't significantly reduce air pollution.
Now it appears the four-county region will almost certainly exceed the anticipated new Environmental Protection Agency standards and be forced to adhere to tougher environmental rules that could add costly regulations to companies and local governments.
New data from ozone monitoring sites in Wichita and Peck indicate the region would be out of compliance with the ozone limits the EPA is expected to announce at the end of the month.
The Wichita region has come close to exceeding existing limits in past years.
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"It looks like our luck may have run out," said Kay Johnson, manager of Wichita's office of environmental initiatives.
Wichita City Council members and Sedgwick County Commissioners will hear the news and some potential solutions at a workshop this morning in City Hall.
The workshop, slated to begin at 11:30 a.m., will be broadcast on cable channel 7 and on the city's website, www.wichita.gov.
It's not clear exactly what noncompliance would mean for the region, which includes Sedgwick, Butler, Sumner and Harvey counties.
But it would likely include stricter rules for major industrial companies that already have air quality permits, and it would likely subject some smaller companies, such as aircraft suppliers, to new regulation.
It could also require large trucks to cut their engines if they're going to idle more than five minutes and force the city to study transportation projects to ensure they won't have a negative impact on ozone emissions.
Ozone is formed when sunlight hits volatile organic compounds, such as those found in gasoline and many solvents, or nitrous oxide, which is present in the exhaust of most vehicles and power plants.
According to the EPA, breathing air containing ozone can reduce lung function, aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma and contribute to premature death, particularly in people with lung or heart problems.
The stricter standards were recommended by a panel of experts who reviewed more than 1,700 studies.
Several business groups and politicians oppose the change, citing its potential costs.
The city has reached out to try to get residents to limit activities that add to the problems.
And state lawmakers and ranchers have been meeting to discuss ways to limit the impact of range burning in the Flint Hills.
Among the things the city and others have suggested are:
* Refuel vehicles after 6 p.m.; don't top off the tank; be careful not to spill fuel and always tighten the gas cap securely.
* Keep car, boat, and other engines tuned up.
* Be sure your tires are properly inflated.
* Car pool, use public transportation, bike, or walk whenever possible.
* Use environmentally safe paints and cleaning products whenever possible.
* Mow grass after 6 p.m. Keep lawnmowers and other small engines properly tuned. Limit use of combustion-engine leaf blowers.