LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Wherever there's a lot of people there's likely ground level ozone. Commonly referred to as smog it can cause a host of respiratory problems. Southwest Louisiana has maintained healthy air quality levels for more than ten years, but officials say staying above the bar just got harder.
"The EPA has recently implemented some tougher ozone standards which we are currently in attainment with, we do comply with those but barely," explained Larry DeRoussel, with the Lake Area Industry Alliance.
DeRoussel says industry has made great strides to comply with the new standards, but it's not just industry. He explains they only contribute about 58 to 60 percent of emissions that react with sunlight to produce harmful ozone. The other 40 percent comes from driving, mowing and other sources. It's a collective contribution that's monitored by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality 24 - 7.
"The rule is that if you have exceeded four times in any three consecutive years than you have not met regulations," said DeRoussel.
Of the 26 monitors around the state, three are in Calcasieu Parishand there is one each in Carlyss, Vinton and Westlake.
"The Westlake site which is in Westlake, Louisiana is actually the lowest in the state. And so that's another interesting thing about this area is that you have one of the lowest, but you also have the other two which are sitting right at the standard," said Jennifer Mouton, with DEQ.
Because they're generally the hottest months, Mouton says May through September is prime time ozone season. Mouton says based on the new ozone standard 26 parishes could potentially be designated non attainment due to high levels of ozone. If an area falls out of attainment - they could be forced to use specially formulated gas among other things.
"We're hoping for a very good '09. We've come around to all of the areas and told them how pivotal '09 is. So everyone needs to keep an eye on it. Everybody can help us out," said Mouton.
To maintain clean air, communities are urged to do their part. Some tips include - mowing lawns late in the evening, avoid filling up your car during hot times of the day and keeping car maintenance up.
"If you think about it, if every individual were to do that, that's a significant contribution to the reduction of those emissions," said DeRoussel.
To find out about the daily Air Quality Index in a given part of the state click here.