Ground level ozone forms during the interaction of chemicals in
the air with sunlight on days when there is little wind in the first
5-9 miles of the atmosphere in the air that we breathe. This ozone
is not the same as atmospheric ozone. Atmospheric ozone is often discussed
as having a hole in it and that protects us from harmful UV rays from
the sun. Ground level ozone is formed when NOx (nitrous oxide) and
VOC's (volatile organic compounds) are heated by sunlight and undisturbed
by wind. This combination of airborne chemicals and meteorology forms
ground level ozone.
NOx (nitrous oxide) and VOC's (volatile organic compounds) are byproducts
from the combustion of fossil fuels in gas and diesel engines in cars,
trucks, off road and construction equipment and small engines. Science
indicates that reducing the emission of nitrogen oxides or NOx and
VOCs is critical to reducing ozone.
What is amazing is how we in Victoria perceive our ozone challenge.
In a study conducted by Texas A&M University of all near non attainment
and non attainment areas in Texas in 2001, several important facts
came to light about how we in Victoria view air quality. First of
all, we believe that about 1/3 of our emissions come from manufacturing
plants, 1/3 from gas and diesel engines and 1/3 from agriculture.
A significant percentage of volatile organic compounds in Victoria County
are produced by biogenic sources such as oak, mesquite and pecan trees
and corn crops--these compounds are part of the natural process of growth and are often related to trees that do not shed their leaves such as live oaks and conifers. Only 8% of NOx in Victoria
county is non-preventable because it is created by biogenic sources. Clearly, biogenic sources are not the cause of our air pollution problems.
8% of VOCs in Victoria County come from industrial processes. Industrial facilities are the most highly regulated facilties in the area and are integral partners in the Air Victoria Technical Advisory committee which works cooperatively with our state environmental agency, TCEQ to create a technical work plan and conduct research activities.
Another 21% of VOCs come from small business processes that use nail polish remover, paints, dry cleaning or
photo lab chemicals. All of the small businesses in Victoria that handle these chemicals have been contacted through the Air Victoria Team program. More than forty businesses participate in the program and have adopted environmental best practices for their business type and have reduced harmful emissions through voluntary
compliance with ozone prevention methods.
But more than 54% of NOx produced in Victoria are from on and off road
vehicles and area sources which use gasoline or diesel fuels. These emissions can be reduced significantly
each day through air quality initiatives like stopping at the click, reducing idling, operating a cleaner vehicle and maintaining vehicles according to the manufacturer's suggested schedule.
Some pollution is transported into the Victoria area during certain seasonal weather patterns from areas to our north and east including the eastern US, Louisiana and the Houston area. Still, Victoria produces significant amounts of air pollutants on its own.
With this information, we
see clearly the facts of where our pollutants come from in Victoria and what we can do to improve our air quality.
EnviroFact: Victorians spend an average
of 32 ½ minutes driving to work-
7 minutes longer than the average commute in Houston. (TAMU, 2002)