Ozone levels in Tri-Cities as high as in Seattle - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Ozone levels in Tri-Cities as high as in Seattle

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KENNEWICK, WA.-- Scientists are constantly monitoring the air quality here in Washington Sate. But after finding the amount of ground-level ozone in the Tri-Cities to be just about as high as those of Seattle, experts here will be doing an extensive study on the pollution and its sources starting this Friday. 

Ozone, or O3, is an inorganic molecule made up of three oxygen molecules. While ground-level ozone is bad for the environment, it's also incredibly uncomfortable for anyone trying to spend time outside... especially people with asthma. 

As Robin Priddy of Benton Clean Air told KNDU, ozone is, "Really reactive. So what happens is when it touches your mucus membranes, like your eyes and your respiratory tract, it reacts and just becomes oxygen. But that reaction is very irritating." 

Ground-level ozone can come from a number of sources, ranging anywhere from car emissions, to the plants in your garden.

As Ranil Dhammapala of the Washington Department of Ecology, pointed out, if the problem isn't taken care of, it can have devastating results. 

"When you exceed the federal standards, the state has to come up with a state implementation plan to bring the area back into compliance with the federal standards," Dhammapala explained. "The unfortunate cost to society is that it becomes rather difficult for new businesses to get business permits.

One theory about why the Tri-Cities is experiencing increased ground-level ozone is simply where we are on the map. Scientists think it's possible that winds coming from the north may be getting stuck in the basin created by Horse Heaven Hills and the Wallula Gap. Then, when the temperature gets hot enough, that air essentially bakes itself into ozone molecules. 

The tests on the ozone in the Tri-Cities will last roughly three weeks. However, the finalized results will not be published until around June of 2017.