Summer heat increases smog risk, impacts air quality

August 21, 2012

Summer in Western Washington means a respite from the rain, but the season also brings wildfires and increased ozone levels.

The result is diminished air quality and increased health risks for people battling heart and lung diseases.

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Hot weather means increased ozone risk

August 4, 2012

NEW — 6 a.m. Aug. 4, 2012

Hot weather expected throughout Washington is expected to increase levels of ozone, the major ingredient of smog.

Forecasts call for high temperatures in the 80s and 90s throughout the state for the next few days. The conditions combine with vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors and other air pollutants to produce higher levels of ozone.

Ozone at ground level can be harmful. The substance is the main ingredient of smog and can cause health problems.

The state Department of Ecology offers a video to provide more information about how ozone forms. Winds often carry ozone-forming pollutants away from urban sources to rural areas.

Unhealthy ozone levels can affect everyone, especially pose risks for people with lung and heart disease, children, older adults and active people. People should limit activities and time spent outdoors as ozone levels rise.

Monitor local air quality by using the Washington Air Quality Advisory website.

Summer haze can impact air quality, raise health risks

July 12, 2012

NEW — 10 a.m. July 12, 2012

Summer in Western Washington means a respite from the rain, but the season also brings wildfires and increased ozone levels. The result is diminished air quality and increased health risks for people battling heart and lung diseases.

Different factors contribute to summer air pollution. Several consecutive days of sunny, hot weather increase ozone. Wildfires produce smoky air containing fine particles and toxic chemicals. Vehicle exhaust also contributes to air quality issues.

People can lower exposure to air pollution by checking air quality conditions before participating in outdoor activities. State health officials recommended for people — especially seniors and others at increased risk — to limit outdoor activity and choose less strenuous things to do, such as going for a walk instead of a run, if air pollution is high.

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Website allows public to track toxic algae in lakes, rivers

July 10, 2012

King County and state officials recently launched a website to help protect people from illness related to toxic algae blooms in lakes and rivers.

Residents can go to the Washington State Toxic Algae website, www.nwtoxicalgae.org, to see if a waterway lake is experiencing problems from toxic algae blooms.

Come summertime, higher temperatures and increased sunshine feed the growth of toxic algae blooms in lakes and rivers.

In addition to being smelly and unsightly, algae can be toxic to people, pets and livestock. Toxicity tends to be the highest in late summer and autumn.

The county also launched a database in conjunction with the state Department of Ecology to provide a searchable website for data from algae samples. The samples come through the agency’s Freshwater Algae Control Program. Learn more about the effort at www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/plants/algae/index.html.

The program paid for the project with dollars from vessel registration fees in Washington.

The map-based website uses color-coded dots to flag problem areas. Users can learn the history of algae blooms in many locations.

Report suspicious patches of algae on freshwater to Tricia Shoblom at 649-7288, or at www.ecy.wa.gov/reportenviroproblem.html.

State seeks comments on mercury-containing lights

July 10, 2012

The state Department of Ecology is establishing a program to collect, transport and recycle mercury-containing lights — such as fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent bulbs — and the public can comment.

State legislators passed the law during the 2010 legislative session. The bill established a producer-financed product stewardship program for mercury-containing bulbs. The program is meant to allow consumers to recycle the lights safely, conveniently and at no cost.

The energy-efficient lighting contains mercury, so disposal can cause environmental problems. Putting spent fluorescent lights into the trash becomes illegal starting Jan. 1, 2013.

Broken fluorescent lights expose workers, residents and children to toxic mercury vapors. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin. Releasing the substance into the environment is a threat to public health.

Residents can submit comments at www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/swfa/mercurylights/rulemaking.html, email them to kara.steward@ecy.wa.gov or mail them to Department of Ecology, Kara J. Steward, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504-7600.

The public can comment on the stewardship program through Aug. 14.

City Council gives green light to transportation projects plan

July 3, 2012

City Council members approved the roadmap for all city transportation projects through 2018 — a guide to planned street and sidewalk improvements.

In a unanimous decision June 18, council members adopted the Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP, a guide to short- and long-term planning for road, transit and pedestrian projects. The document outlines possible transportation projects for 2013-18.

Transportation planners outlined possible improvements to downtown streets, street repairs and other projects in the expansive document.

The list does not include as many big-ticket projects as in past years — a result of council belt-tightening in the municipal budget.

Still, items outlined in the proposal could alleviate traffic congestion and offer motorists a smoother ride — if the city can find dollars to complete the projects.

Municipal staffers list transportation projects in the TIP, and then prioritize the projects through a separate process to fund capital improvements.

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Watch for youth litter crews along King County roads

July 3, 2012

Motorists should use extra caution on King County roads in the months ahead, as teenagers clear litter for the state Department of Ecology.

The agency operates the Ecology Youth Corps program for teenagers ages 14-17. Motorists should watch for orange “Ecology youth working” signs along state highways.

“Safety is our No. 1 priority,” said Steven Williams, regional litter administrator and coordinator for the Ecology Youth Corps. “Every driver needs to stay alert when passing a litter crew. For most crew members, it’s their first job. We’re proud of their work to help keep our roadways litter-free.”

Statewide, Ecology Youth Corps crews cleaned almost 5,225 miles of roadways, picked up 505 tons of litter and recycled 90 tons of materials last year — including more than 84 tons of litter in King County.

Members earn $9.04 per hour, and work 7½ hours per day, Monday through Friday. Crews operate through July 25 and again from July 26 through Aug. 21.

Littering can draw fines up to $1,025. Fines for illegal dumping range from $1,000 to $5,000 — plus jail time.

Watch for Department of Ecology Youth Corps litter crews along King County roads

June 27, 2012

NEW — 8 a.m. June 27, 2012

Motorists should use extra caution on King County roads in the months ahead, as teenagers clear litter for the state Department of Ecology.

The agency operates the Ecology Youth Corps program for teenagers age 14 to 17. Motorists should watch for orange “Ecology youth working” signs along state highways.

“Safety is our No. 1 priority,” said Steven Williams, regional litter administrator and coordinator for the Ecology Youth Corps. “Every driver needs to stay alert when passing a litter crew. For most crew members, it’s their first job. We’re proud of their work to help keep our roadways litter-free.”

Statewide, Ecology Youth Corps crews cleaned almost 5,225 miles of roadways, picked up 505 tons of litter and recycled 90 tons of materials last year — including more than 84 tons of litter in King County.

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Citizens can comment on Issaquah shoreline rules

June 12, 2012

The state Department of Ecology requested input from citizens as officials evaluate the city-developed plans for land along Issaquah Creek and Lake Sammamish.

The updated Shoreline Master Program is designed to guide construction and development for 12 miles along the creek and the lake. The agency is accepting public comments on the proposed rules until June 29.

Email comments and questions to city Environmental Planner Peter Rosen at peterr@ci.issaquah.wa.us. Call 837-3094 to ask questions about the proposal.

The proposed rules combine local plans for future development and preservation, plus recent development ordinances and related permitting requirements. The plan is meant to minimize environmental damage to shoreline areas.

The proposal contains distinct rules for creekside and lakeside development. Planners also included measures to control erosion and limit construction along Lake Sammamish.

Once the public comment period ends, Department of Ecology officials could approve the proposed Shoreline Master Program as-is, reject the document or direct city officials to modify specific parts.

Department of Ecology seeks input on landfill rule changes

June 12, 2012

The state Department of Ecology seeks citizen input as the agency prepares to amend rules affecting landfills, including the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill near Issaquah.

The amendments to the state administrative code aim to bring the criteria for landfills into alignment with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements.

The state agency is proposing changes to rules for landfill liner and cover design, standards and procedures for closing landfills, and other landfill practices and procedures.

Citizens can review the proposed rule language and related documents at www.ecy.wa.gov/laws-rules/activity/wac173351.html.

Mail comments to Wayne Krafft, Washington Department of Ecology, Eastern Regional Office, Waste 2 Resources Program, 4601 N. Monroe St., Spokane, WA 99205-1295. Email comments to rulecommentsw2r@ecy.wa.gov. The comment period ends July 6.

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