After 40 Years, Maricopa County In Compliance With Clean Air Act

By  Al Macias
June 02, 2014

(Photo by Al Macias - KJZZ)
A construction worker sprays water on dirt to eliminate dust at a site in Phoenix.

The Valley’s air quality has improved over the last several years. On Friday the EPA approved a long-awaited clean air plan for Maricopa County.

That go-ahead means state and Valley leaders no longer face the potential loss of billions of dollars in federal highway construction funds.

Those street sweepers you see on the freeways at night, trucks with tarps hauling dirt, work crews hosing down construction sites, alleys being paved. Those are just some steps businesses and local governments are taking to reduce dust.

Better monitoring equipment has also made it easier for county workers to respond to possible violators. A new rapid-response system updates information from dust monitors around the county every five minutes.

Maricopa County Air Quality Director Bill Wiley said sometimes neighbors who subscribe to alerts through the system get to the violator before inspectors do.

"We had the west Chandler monitor start going quite high. It started going above our alert threshold. This was a five minute alert. We said 'hey this doesn’t look like a dust storm coming through,' because nothing else was going on in the Valley," Wiley said. "Based on that, we sent out the alerts."

In that case a local business got the alert and was responsible for telling a farmer to stop tilling the land before inspectors got there.

The EPA approval marked the first time Maricopa County has been in compliance with the federal Clean Air Act since it became law more than 40 years ago.