Environment
5:32 pm
Thu August 8, 2013

After Critical State Audit of Louisville's Air Pollution District, What's Next?

It’s still too early to know what exactly the fallout will be from a critical state audit that found the Louisville Air Pollution Control District’s air monitoring program severely lacking.

The Kentucky Division for Air Quality’s audit looked at the way Louisville’s Air Pollution Control District handles particulate matter—or soot. It found serious problems with the way the district handles the air quality data it collects, and that some staff members lacked the necessary training to conduct the analysis.

Division for Air Quality Director John Lyons says the unreliable data from at least the past four years could affect the city’s designation with the Environmental Protection Agency.

“If you don’t have data, EPA can’t say you’re out of compliance, but they can’t say you’re in compliance either,” he said. “So it really becomes an issue of an unclassifiable situation.”

From the EPA’s perspective, Lyons says Louisville’s monitors aren’t necessary, because the metropolitan region has enough monitors in Indiana. But a stricter standard for particulate matter went into effect last year, and based on the Indiana monitors the area doesn’t meet the new standard. Because three years of data are needed, the APCD’s problems could mean the city has to start from scratch in proving its compliance. It's up to the EPA, which has to respond to the state audit.

So, what does this mean?

“It means based on the clinical studies and the modeling and everything that went into deriving the new standard that you have impaired air,” Lyons said. “And obviously our main job is to get areas back into attainment with the current standard.”

From the (possibly flawed) data posted on the Air Pollution Control District’s website, the city’s particulate pollution was at record-low levels this year, and would have been in attainment with the new standard.

If the Louisville metro area is designated as “non-attainment”—as it has been in the past, it means that there will be stricter standards for air pollution permits and transportation projects.

In light of the state audit, Mayor Greg Fischer has called for a review of the Air Pollution Control District.

To read the audit, click here.

Here's the Air Pollution Control District's response to the audit.