Ohio Requests Recognition of Improved Air Quality in Belmont

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Starting or expanding a business can be difficult in areas where there is a lot of air pollution.

Once a region meets certain emission standards, company owners won't have to go through as much paperwork to open up an air pollution source like a factory.

That is why the State of Ohio is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to officially recognize that air quality in Belmont County meets the 1997 federal fine particulate standard.

This standard regulates the emission of tiny particles that can damage your health.

"Because they're so small they become lodged very deep in the lungs and can cause problems for people, particularly people who have had heart trouble or breathing problems like asthma or bronchitis or other things," says Ohio EPA spokeswoman Heidi Griesmer.

Belmont County has been meeting the standard for three years, which allows the Ohio EPA to request redesignation.

"Once the area is classified as meeting the particulate standard it makes it a little easier for businesses that want to open up a new air pollution source to actually locate Belmont County," Griesmer says. "Now, it's not free rein: businesses still have to show that with the extra pollution they would have, it's not going to cause an area to backslide and start to have air quality problems. But it's a little less of a burden for them to do that than it is when an area is not meeting the standard."

In order for the U.S. EPA to approve Ohio's request, the state is required to demonstrate that Belmont will be able to maintain compliance with the fine particulate standard for 10 years.

The Ohio EPA will hold a public hearing to take comments on the proposal on April 5.

Griesmer says it could take several months for the U.S. EPA to approve Ohio's request.