State officials plan to install air quality monitoring equipment by this fall near a Pasadena power plant, after conflicting reports from federal and state officials left residents with uncertainty about the quality of the air they are breathing.
In July 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency ruled that areas within a 17-mile radius of the coal-burning Herbert A. Wagner Generating Station are exposed to unhealthy levels of sulfur dioxide, a pollutant that officials said contributes to respiratory problems, particularly in the young, elderly, and people with asthma problems.
The Maryland Department of Environment, however, disputed that claim, saying that the agency reached its conclusion using data from 2013 through 2015 that pre-dated the plant’s use of low-sulfur coal. A model that accounts for the use of low-sulfur coal, and subsequent reduced sulfur dioxide emissions, shows no violations of the EPA’s sulfur dioxide standard, according to the department.
Both the EPA and the state used models to reach their conclusions. Modeling relies on projections of air quality based on meteorological data, emission rates, height of a plant’s smoke stacks and other data.
Local officials, including legislators and the Greater Pasadena Council, have asked for monitoring equipment to be placed near the plant, to conclusively determine air quality in the area based on readings, not models.
On Thursday, Maryland Department of Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles confirmed that the state will install a monitoring equipment specifically to monitor sulfur dioxide levels in the area by this fall.