CHICAGO (Sept. 14, 2005) — U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 announced today that all of Lake County, Ind., now meets the health-based, outdoor air-quality standard for sulfur dioxide.
Lake County, located in northwest Indiana, has several industrial facilities that have substantially reduced their sulfur dioxide emissions over the years. EPA is redesignating the county as a sulfur dioxide attainment area based on three years of complete, quality-assured, outdoor air monitoring data for 2002, 2003 and 2004. The action will be published soon in the Federal Register.
EPA also approved several Indiana rules limiting sulfur dioxide emissions and state plans to maintain the standard at least through 2015.
"We congratulate Lake County on achieving this significant health-based air quality standard," said EPA Region 5 Administrator Thomas V. Skinner. "Following the state's air quality maintenance plan should ensure cleaner air in the future."
"The people and industries of Lake County have worked hard to achieve an annual reduction of more than 30,000 tons of sulfur dioxide emissions," said Thomas W. Easterly, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. "As a result, Lake County residents are enjoying a permanent improvement in the quality of the air where they live, work and raise their families."
Sulfur dioxide is a pungent, colorless gas formed primarily by burning sulfur-containing fossil fuels and ores. Major sources include steel mills, an oil refinery and other industrial processes. To meet the health-based standard, outdoor air concentrations must not exceed 0.14 parts per million, averaged over 24 hours.
Exposure to sulfur dioxide can impair breathing, aggravate existing respiratory diseases like bronchitis and reduce the ability of the lungs to clear foreign particles. Sulfur dioxide can also cause acid rain and contribute to fine particle pollution. Children, the elderly and people with existing heart and lung conditions are the most sensitive to sulfur dioxide.