DEQ continues to monitor air quality, declining pollutant counts

Published: Apr. 24, 2020 at 4:15 PM EDT
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has reported it is documenting fewer driving-related pollutants in the air right now. But experts say reduced traffic from the Stay at Home order might not tell the whole story.

The Virginia DEQ compared data from the air quality monitor at Horn Elementary School in Vinton to the same time period from 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Nitrogen dioxide saw the largest year-over-year decreases.

And compared to last year, daily averages decreased by 44 percent.

But Chuck Turner, manager at DEQ's Office of Air Quality Monitoring, warns the weather can also have a large effect on pollution counts.

"Meteorology plays a big part in those numbers," he said. "And meteorology recently has been a little bit colder, a little bit damper than it has. So that could impact pollutant formation. So generally speaking, I would say the lowering trend doesn't surprise me. I don't think we have enough data right now to ascribe it specifically to a lower amount or lower contribution from traffic. Not saying that won't turn out to be that way, I just think we'll need to look at it some more."

Tuner also notes while general traffic has reduced, there doesn't seem to be quite as big a reduction in truck traffic, which generates some of the highest levels of pollutants.

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