Air Quality Websites: A Starting Place For Texas Public Outreach

Given that it’s July and we’re nearing the annual peak of ozone or “smog” season, our team wondered what public education and outreach efforts cities in Texas might be undertaking to raise air pollution awareness.

We started by looking at Texas cities’ websites. Overall, we were pleased to see the depth of information readily available for all citizens. Here’s a summary of what we found:

City of Arlington: Undoubtedly the largest city in North Texas, with a population of more than 350,000, Arlington provides its citizens with a “Cleaning Up Our Air” site, which includes facts on ground-level ozone, health implications and major air pollution sources, namely vehicles, industrial facilities, refineries and household products. The site lists 12 tips for how everyone can improve air quality.  It also outlines the steps the city has taken to reduce emissions, such as maintaining city vehicle tune-ups and routinely updating emission control equipment.

City of Austin: Texas’ capital, with more than 800,000 people, boasts an air quality page that includes a two-day ozone forecast and insight into how population growth is a major factor in increased ozone levels. The site provides a tutorial on the creation of ozone and tips on how to reduce emissions. These tips include less use of cars and trucks, limited engine idling, regular car tune-ups and more use of public transit.

City of Dallas: With more than 1.2 million people, the people of Dallas make up a sizeable portion of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, which ranked eighth among the U.S. cities with the worst ozone levels. Dallas’ page offers basic information on ozone with links to the American Lung Association and to the state’s Air Pollution Watch.  What’s particularly helpful is the option to subscribe to ozone email alerts. Green Dallas, another city page dedicated to Dallas air quality offers tips on controlling air pollution, anti-idling ordinances, climate change, regional initiatives and more. It also cites ozone as the only air pollutant for which Dallas does not meet national air quality standards.

City of Fort Worth: In Fort Worth, a city of nearly 760,000 people, the Environmental Management department site features an Air Quality Index with links to air alerts and real-time updates. As part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Fort Worth was also ranked as eighth on the list of U.S. cities with the highest ozone levels. The page also includes tips on how to reduce ozone emissions. The Environmental Management team assists the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) with outdoor air monitoring, permitting, compliance inspection, complaint investigation and enforcement. It also provides insight for businesses interested in promoting better air quality in the region.

City of Houston: Texas’ largest city is home to more than 2 million people, and as part of the Houston-Baytown-Huntsville region was ranked seventh this year among the nation’s cities for highest ozone levels. The city devotes a page to ozone, other air toxics and their impact on public health. The site links to a “What You Can Do” page, which offers perhaps the most extensive list of tips we’ve seen, including two separate lists for free tips and those with a fee. This comprehensive site goes above and beyond by detailing the air quality benefit from each action, as well as water quality benefits.

City of San Antonio: This Southern Texas city provides its 1.3 million residents with an Environment page and a chance to read the “Air Quality Health Alert Plan.” San Antonio’s air quality plan details the city’s guidelines and procedures created to reduce ozone-forming emissions in the atmosphere, both on “Alert” days and throughout the ozone season. The Environment page also links to Environmental Health Services, which extensively outlines various rules related to emissions reductions, especially for business and industrial processes. (If you are interested in reading more about San Antonio air issues, check out my recent post on San Antonio’s first public forum on air quality.)

Overall, the pages we found give citizens a good introduction to the dangers of smog and other airborne pollutants. Many forms of air pollution are totally invisible to the naked eye, so these pages are a vital tool for citizens concerned about the air they breathe. In the future, we’ll post about regional coalitions taking the next step to address air quality in Texas. In the meantime, the TCEQ Air Quality Index can help you understand when smog hits dangerous levels in your region, while the local city pages offer simple steps that we can all take toward improving the quality of the air we breathe.

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