Ozone study causes concern for local scientists - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Ozone study causes concern for local scientists

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KENNEWICK, WA - It's been more than a year in the making - an ozone study that's causing a lot of concern and confusion for local scientists.

The Department of Ecology is finally ready to meet in hopes of finding a solution for this problem. Here in the Tri-Cities, we have amounts of ground-level ozone comparable to those of a bigger city like Seattle, despite the difference in population size.

The study began over a year ago now, and was extended because of the recently high amounts of smoke in the air. However, as Ranil Dhammapala with Ecology told reporter Kristina Shalhoup, while smoke can make ozone levels worse, it's not the smoke that's been causing the problem.

"Traffic and the VOCs pretty much within the air shed is responsible, but it has to happen on the days when the weather is conducive...pretty much north winds damming up against the Horse Heaven Hills," Dhammapala said.

So basically what we're getting here is a perfect storm; ozone is made up of nitrogen-oxides and volatile organic compounds, things that can come from man-made things like vehicles, lawnmowers, or even natural things like plants. When those molecules get pushed into the Horse Heaven Hills, they kind of just sit there and bake with the stagnant air.

One interesting factor that might be a creator of VOCs - some of the particles that make up ozone - is agriculture...both plants, and the machines used to farm them.

Once again, though, that's just a smaller piece of a bigger puzzle.

Dhammapala said that this month, he will sit down with an ozone task force to figure out the best ways to decrease the amount of ozone in our area.

Until it is decreased, though, he says if you're highly receptive to poor air quality, you might want to avoid spending too much time outside in the heat of the day.