In San Antonio, Cleaner Air May Be on the Horizon

For many years, San Antonio’s air quality has been at a tipping point. With smog levels that just narrowly hovered beneath national limits for ozone pollution, the city is currently in competition for having some of the worst smog levels in Texas.

Ground-level ozone can cause asthma attacks and other illnesses—which means the state of San Antonio’s air quality is putting public health at risk.  That’s about to change thanks to new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards that set stronger limits on ozone levels—pushing smog-challenged cities like San Antonio to take action and clean up the air.  

The sources of ozone pollution are varied, but many of the solutions for curbing the emissions that contribute to ozone are straightforward – that’s where city leaders need to be focused. Fortunately, for San Antonio, many seem committed to that vision.

Last week, elected officials teamed up with local air quality experts, health professionals, and stakeholders to discuss the layered approach needed to bring San Antonio’s air back to acceptable levels.

“To be successful, we all will have to have an aggressive plan moving forward,” said San Antonio councilmember Ray Lopez.

Among the things city leaders want included in this “aggressive” plan: implementation of energy efficient projects at city facilities, expanded public transportation, anti-idling regulations, and cleaner city vehicle fleets. Concern and the need to “keep an eye” on local air impacts from oil and gas emissions coming from the Eagle Ford Shale has also been expressed. Studies by the University of Texas and the Alamo Area Council of Governments have indicated that excessive flaring and uncontrolled emissions from oil and gas facilities can impact ozone levels in San Antonio.

Regions with poor air quality will have several years to get in compliance with EPA’s new standards, but San Antonio can’t afford to wait that long for cleaner air—air quality is already having a detrimental impact on many San Antonio families. Krystal Henegan, Texas Field organizer with Moms Clean Air Force, knows this all too well. Since moving to San Antonio, her son developed severe asthma symptoms that at one time required as many as seven different medications to control.

“As a parent, I want to give my son plenty of opportunities to play outside. But right now, it’s difficult with his asthma” she said.

Communities have a right to clean air. San Antonio’s leaders must come to the table and put together a comprehensive plan for improving air quality in the region. As Councilmember Ron Nirenberg said:

“This isn’t just a health issue, it’s a community issue and it’s about the future of San Antonio.”

Image source:  David Sucsy

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2 Comments

  1. Posted October 13, 2015 at 2:49 PM | Permalink

    I feel badly for Krystal Henegan's son who has developed uncontrollable asthma after moving to San Antonio four years ago, but there are many other more common asthma triggers in San Antonio than our handful of high ozone days (afternoons). San Antonio is home to high allergens almost all year long due to molds, mountain cedar, ragweed and oak trees. Allergens are the number one cause of asthma attacks. As a lifelong asthmatic, I have never noticed a decrease in my lung functions during San Antonio's rare ozone events. Asthma rates for the highest ozone cites are lower than the national asthma rates for the country.

    TCEQ disagrees with the statement, "We all know that higher levels sen people to the hospital". Here is a link to one of their studies which shows no correlation between asthma and ozone. http://www.tceq.com/assets/public/implementation/tox/ozone/interesting_facts_about_ozone.pdf

  2. Posted October 17, 2015 at 9:00 AM | Permalink

    As long as we're talking anecdotal evidence, gee, Mark, I had to move out of San Antonio–I like to think it's temporary–because of the combination of pollutants. And here's the deal—as a lifelong asthmatic, I am tested frequently to determine what my triggers are. I have never been allergic to cedar (juniper). I have never been allergic to oak. Or ragweed. Or grasses. My triggers are tobacco smoke and coffee, and those are not the pollutants San Antonio is experiencing, are they–not at any time! My allergist told me that people pass off their asthma and allergy attacks as being related to what popular culture tells them–like, oy, the cedar is so high! ACHOO! And the non-regulatory so-called regulatory agency TCEQ, which is a joke to public health specialists, is not telling us what scientists and researchers are finding elsewhere. In fact, they haven't even understood the value of air monitoring in some of the worst air quality ON THE CONTINENT, got it? So perhaps public health is not served by those who refuse to confront the science.