Environment
6:18 am
Thu April 18, 2013

Sierra Club Irked At Ozone Monitor Shutdown

Range burning on the Konza Prairie.
Credit Courtesy / USDA NRCS

The Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club says it's a mistake for the EPA to stop monitoring ozone pollution on the Konza Prairie, near Manhattan. Ozone concentrations there have been consistently higher than the level allowed under federal air quality standards.

The monitor four miles south of Manhattan has been collecting data since 2002. The EPA says their monitors operate at the discretion of the landowner.

The Nature Conservancy, which owns the land, and Kansas State University, which operates the Konza Prairie research site, are worried the EPA might use the data to interfere with their range-burning research, so they asked that the ozone monitor be removed. But Craig Volland, of the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club, says they’re overreacting.

“But the fact is, last year, in December, the EPA threw out the data that could have been used for compliance," says Volland. "So, they’re concerned about it being used for compliance, but so far it isn’t.”

Volland says most of the readings that violate air quality standards—including all eight last year—have happened in the summer, long after range-burning season is over. He says without a monitor in the area, there will be no way to figure out the true cause of the ozone problem.

According to Volland, there’s no doubt that ozone levels have been high enough to send some Manhattan residents to the hospital with difficulty breathing.