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Glitch hiding ozone levels
By MARK WILSON, Courier & Press staff writer (812) 464-7417 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Evansville residents escaped high ozone levels this weekend despite the heat, but a state computer glitch left people wondering. The data that the Evansville Environmental Protection Agency use for determining whether to issue health advisories or alerts had been absent from the Internet since Friday, Executive Director Christine Martin said.
The site was supposed to be working again by today, said Indiana Department of Environmental Management officials.
IDEM posts daily readings from six Evansville-area air monitors on the Smog Watch page of its Web site. The site (www.state.in.us/idem/oam/smog) is a source of ozone information for the public as well as local agencies.
Data from the monitors are retrieved directly from each monitor by modem through telephone lines.
However, the computer used to put that information onto the Internet has been down, said Dick Zeiler, of IDEMs Office of Air Management.
When that happens, Martin said, the only way local governments can know to issue alerts is through IDEM or by sending somebody to read the computer printouts at individual monitor sites.
Martin said she had difficulty reaching anybody over the weekend when she needed to check.
However, Zeiler said that in those situations IDEM will notify the area if ozone approaches levels of concern.
We've had a lot of wind. We have been pretty lucky, Martin said. Even yesterday, as much as it was hot, we had a pretty good wind. The flags on the courthouse were flying straight out.
In more stagnant conditions, heat and sunlight combine with nitrogen oxide and other chemicals to create ozone, the prime ingredient in smog.
Martin said she expects ozone levels to worsen once summer sets in.
Last year there were 30 ozone advisory days and two ozone alert days, she said.
Advisories are issued when ozone levels reach 90 parts per billion for one hour. Alerts are given out when the level reaches 100 ppb and the weather does not appear likely to improve.
Exposure to ozone, even at low levels, is believed to exacerbate or cause a variety of health ills, including asthma and other respiratory problems.
The chances of being affected by ozone increase the longer a person is active outdoors and the more strenuous the activity.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends planning outdoor activities when ozone levels are lower, usually in the morning or evening
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), June 14, 2000