County could pay for neighbors#039; pollution

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 30, 2003

Lawrence County doesn't have an oil refinery, a steel mill, or a chemical facility, but it could be penalized because its neighbors do.

The Ohio EPA is in the process of developing boundary recommendations for

eight-hour ozone non-attainment areas. State environmental officials have initially recommended that Lawrence County be included in a non-attainment zone with Boyd and Greenup counties in Kentucky, and Cabell and Wayne counties in West Virginia. Those neighbors are the sites of heavy industry such as AK Steel

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in Russell, Ky., and the Marathon-Ashland Petroleum refinery in Catlettsburg, Ky.

Because those cities are situated along the river and the winds tend to carry pollution down river, Ironton winds up with air pollution it does not create.

"There are two (air emissions) monitors in Lawrence County," Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Special Projects Director Dale Mootz said. "One is in downtown Ironton and one is at Wilgus. The one in Ironton exceeded the ozone limits by two parts per billion in one of the three years it was tested for this.

The threshold is 84 parts per billion, and Ironton tested at 86. The one in Wilgus has never exceeded the limits."

If Lawrence County is included in a non-attainment zone with these neighbors, businesses and industries that choose to locate or expand here could face tougher pollution control regulations in the future, according to Mootz.

"Any industry that wants to add an air emissions source would have to go to the best available technology to limit pollution, which can be very expensive. Right now we're in an attainment zone, which means local industries have to comply with less-stringent regulations," Mootz said.

The proposed boundaries are encountering opposition from local leaders who worry about what stricter EPA regulations would do to the area's already weak economy.

"We're put in a position of trying to be competitive, and we have no control over West Virginia and Kentucky," Lawrence County Commission President George Patterson said. "It upsets me they can put us under conditions that we may not be able to bring new business in here. The state EPA should not support anything that would devastate our area. It looks like they're kicking us in the teeth again."

The state must submit its boundary recommendations to the federal EPA by July 15.

Mootz said local officials should voice their concerns in a unified manner during the public comment period that runs through June 19.

"The EPA tends to follow strict rules, and they need to be able to justify any exclusions," Mootz said. "We need to give them the information they need to justify excluding us."

The federal EPA plans to finalize boundaries by April of next year.