EPA needs to listen to county, change monitoring site

IT’S AN OLD SAYING that the three most important words in real estate are “location, location, location.”

It turns out that those three words are important in other areas than just real estate.

For instance, it apparently makes a difference in air quality testing, which in turn impacts many different areas of life.

That’s all too familiar here in Sheboygan County and local officials are making a strong effort through the state Legislature to change that.

Sheboygan County is one of seven counties in southeastern Wisconsin that is designated as a nonattainment area for air quality standards. The others are Kenosha, Racine, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Waukesha and Washington counties.

That has numerous impacts, but one that affects just about everyone here is that it requires emissions testing as part of vehicle registration.

It also places additional restrictions and requirements on local industries and businesses that hinders their ability to grow and expand, adds costs to their doing business and puts them at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring counties such as Manitowoc, Fond du Lac and Calumet, among others.

That designation is based on air quality measurements from an air quality monitoring station established years ago by the federal Environmental Protection Agency on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Kohler-Andrae State Park.

For years, many local officials have contended that, because of its location, measurements at that station take in emissions originating from elsewhere along the lake, such as the Chicago area, that are carried there on lake winds.

After years of the EPA turning a deaf ear to those contentions, state officials in 2014 established an air quality monitoring station at Haven in the town of Mosel, inland several miles from the lakeshore.

The data from that station has consistently shown the county is within air quality compliance standards, confirming the argument local officials have been making for years.

Area legislators have introduced a bill in the state Senate and Assembly that would call on the state Department of Natural Resources to discontinue using the Kohler-Andrae State Park monitoring station in its reporting to the EPA on air quality standards in Sheboygan County and further direct the DNR to lobby the EPA to discontinue using the Kohler- Andrae monitoring station.

The data would seem to support the contention that the data supplied by the Kohler-Andrae monitoring station is flawed and should not be relied upon. Common sense also would seem to support that contention as well.

If the difference of just a few miles of location in relation to the lakeshore – and pollutants that drift northward on lake winds – can make that much of a difference in the measured air quality standards, it should be taken into account by the appropriate agencies.

After all, there is still nearly 20 miles of Sheboygan County still to the west of the Haven monitoring site and it stands to reason that the levels of pollutants in the rest of the county would be even lower – and that much farther below the nonattaintment levels.

County Board Chair Thomas Wegner and County Administrator Adam Payne have written local legislators in support of the bill to change the monitoring station.

“The EPA needs to listen and to date they have not,” Payne said in reporting on the issue to the County Board last month. “It is important to make the community aware this is an unfair regulation the EPA hangs its hat on. It boils down to good science and common sense.”

And, we might add, the right location, location, location.


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