A program aimed at helping clean the air in Maricopa County is off to a good start in Ahwatukee and the East Valley.
The Mowing Down Pollution Program gives residents who turn in a gas-powered lawn mower a $150 voucher to buy an electric one in an effort to reduce ozone pollution – an odorless and colorless gas that can inflame and damage airways, aggravate asthma and hamper the immune system’s ability to fight off respiratory infections. Children and the elderly are the most susceptible to ozone exposure.
“It’s going well,” said Bob Huhn, spokesman for the Maricopa County Air Quality Department. “Our goal is to distribute 2,500 vouchers. If that happens, we will reduce air pollution by 21 tons per year. That is what we are looking for right now.”
ate environmental officials in 2017 issued for Maricopa County, 46 high-pollution advisories - when air pollution levels are expected to exceed the federal health standard – and 25 health-watch alerts – when air pollution levels are expected to approach the federal health standard, according to Huhn.
Since January, the state has issued 22 high-pollution advisories and 10 health-watch alerts, he said.
Huhn noted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2015 strengthened the standards for ground-level ozone, which bumped up the number of days the county exceeded federal health standards.
Huhn said plans are to later expand the program to landscapers and to include other gardening tools such as gas-powered leaf blowers.
The new program is the county’s third air-pollution-reduction program.
In 2016, it instituted the Fireplace Retrofit Program, which gives homeowners a $2,000 voucher to convert their wood-burning fireplaces to gas burning and if their homes were not plumbed for natural gas, they would receive a device that reduces 75 percent of emission in chimneys, Huhn said.
That program has served 384 people so far, mostly in the Phoenix and Glendale areas, where air monitors show the highest levels of pollution.
And, in 2017, the county launched the Propane Fire Pit Program, which gives residents a $75 voucher to replace their wood-burning fire pits with propane fire pits. To date, 991 people have signed up for that program, according to Huhn.
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