Tulsa is in a heat wave and this baking time could help cook up an ozone alert by week's end. A year ago Monday, Tulsa hit 100 for the first time of the summer. It happened another 21 times before autumn's cool breezes finally arrived. The News on Six is investigating how the state and Tulsa County companies are getting out the word on ozone education.
Under the searing Oklahoma sun, air quality monitors are watching for that first dreaded day. The lower humidity, the higher the ozone. Rhonda Jeffries with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality is ready to crack down on whomever is breaking emissions standards. "We want people to keep in mind, it's health risk. We're looking at the standard based on the probability it will cause problems to people with asthma or respiratory conditions. We're going to be watching it very carefully," she said.
At the Williams Companies, employees get perks for helping keep the air clean. Flexible hours, casual clothing and biking commuters can even earn time off. In all, more than four hundred Tulsa area companies are gearing up for those Ozone Alerts. "We're going to start off with putting posters around and information in the cafeteria and just educate them and let them be aware of the ozone layer here in Tulsa," said Donna Daggs, John Zink Company.
A dangerous recipe mixes in the summer sky over Tulsa when hydrocarbon molecules and nitrogen oxide cook in blistering heat. This results in the creation of ozone, bringing pollution and health risks. You'll hear about an ozone alert day, the night before on the News on Six.
Here's an Ozone Alert primer. On marginal days, find a creative way to get to work, walk or bike, or carpool. Tulsa Transit gives free rides on dirty air days. If you have to drive, slow down; turn off your air conditioner in the mornings. Avoid fueling on ozone days. "I think this is the one we get the most cooperation with and that's don't mow the lawn on those days," said Jeffries.
The DEQ admits there's no way to measure if the cutbacks help but it's worth the effort. If Tulsa exceeds federal dirty air standards, tighter restrictions will likely hit us all where it really hurts, in the pocket book. You Can Make A Difference!
If you find you must drive, turn your car's air conditioner off on that morning's commute. This alone will cut your pollution almost in half!
When you drive faster than 60 mph, your car pollutes more. Slow down on ozone alert days.
Minimize `cold starts' by combining trips. 85 per cent more exhaust emissions are generated in the first minutes of engine operation. Plan your activities so your trips can be combined.
Avoid long idle times. Walk-in rather than drive-through when possible and avoid idle times longer than 30 seconds by turning off your car.
Drive during `off-peak' hours to avoid intense traffic congestion.
Refuel your vehicle during cooler periods of the evening or wait until the next day. Avoid spilling gasoline and topping off the tank.
Keep your car tuned. It will perform better, save gas and reduce pollution.
Check your gas cap to make sure it `seals" properly. If it fits loosely, replace it. More importantly, if it's missing, buy one. You will get better gas mileage and save money.
Bring your lunch to work - "brown bag it" - or walk to lunch. Avoid driving to lunch on ozone alert days.
Leave your grass clippings on your lawn. By mowing often, (tip: cut no more than 1/3 of the height of the grass each time) and leaving it laying on the lawn, Tulsa's air will be cleaner from significant reduced emissions at the Trash to Energy facility and you will have a healthier attractive lawn.
To find out more about ozone alert days go tohttp://www.ozonealert.com