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Cities get warnings about hot summer days ahead

Updated:
TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Web sites, e-mails and a billboard campaign will be aimed at keeping the skies of Oklahoma's largest cities clean when summer days turn sultry.

Monday brought the start of Ozone Alert season, a time of year when windless, sunny days mixed with pollution can lead to the buildup of ground-level ozone.

Excessive ozone levels can create respiratory problems, particularly in the elderly and children, and keep cities from meeting federal air standards.

INCOG and its equivalent in Oklahoma City, the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments, are pushing carpooling, public transportation, postponing lawn mowing and other measures to curb ozone levels.

"The Ozone Alert message is working," said John Selph, chairman of the Indian Nations Council Of Governments Air Quality Committee in Tulsa. "... but we've got to do everything we can to further that message to get it out there to even more people."

Being out of compliance with federal clean air standards can mean government sanctions, including stricter emission requirements for automobiles, higher fuel costs and special industrial filtering equipment.

Both cities exceeded eight-hour averages for clean air standards last summer. A court case is pending, however, on whether the air standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency are enforceable.

This year, officials are telling people to act for their own health.

"We just say, `Listen, if we are declared a dirty air region it could hurt our economic growth, but we also have to care about the health of our people,' " said Jerry Church, ACOG spokesman.

Businesses are encouraged to use alternative fuels like compressed natural gas and propane in their fleets, minimize solvent use, suspend painting operations and notify employees bye-mail of alert days so they can arrange to carpool to work.

A study of 600 randomly selected residents in the fall of 1999 found that 96 percent of Tulsa area residents heard the Ozone Aler tmessage last summer.

About one-quarter of households responding reported a person with respiratory problems.

It found about 75 percent of them took action during Ozone Alert days, including postponing mowing, waiting to refuel vehicles until the cool of the day and reducing their amount of driving.

The survey also found that about half of those surveyed consider pollution from large industries the most important to reduce, followed by vehicle emissions. ------

On the Net:
INCOG's Ozone Alert program:http://www.ozonealert.com
ACOG's Ozone Alert program: http://www.letscleartheair.org
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