Air Quality:

Do We Really Know What It Is?

CED-79-84: Published: May 31, 1979. Publicly Released: Jul 19, 1979.

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Reliable and comparable air quality data are critical to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation and enforcement efforts. Through 1986, an estimated $248 billion will be expended for air pollution abatement programs.

Although progress has been made in improving air quality, EPA efforts to develop a standardized, comprehensive air monitoring system have been slow and often ineffective. Because of a delay in the promulgation of recent regulations, implementation of such a system will probably not be achieved until the mid-1980's. The reliability of some of the air quality data currently used to assess national progress toward standards, develop trends, and establish control strategies is questionable. Of 243 monitoring stations reviewed, 81 percent had one or more problems, such as incorrect situation of the monitors or equipment in use which was not EPA-certified, which could adversely affect the reliability of data. These problems stem from the fact that monitoring is being carried out by state and local agencies, using systems originally designed to meet their individual needs.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: The appropriate congressional committees or subcommittees should hold oversight hearings to explore the progress being made in implementing the air monitoring regulation issued by EPA in May 1979 and to identify the additional actions needed to assure successful completion of the goals of clean air legislation.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: EPA should: (1) conduct a thorough evaluation of current air monitoring systems; (2) provide technical assistance to state and local agencies in preparing their implementation plans; and (3) concentrate its efforts and resources in areas most adversely affected by air quality designations, taking necessary precautions in decisionmaking until sufficient, accurate data are available.

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