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 Air Quality
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You can do something for healthier air!

The City of Round Rock's Air Quality Program works to promote healthy outdoor air for all citizens. The Air Quality Program addresses the City's impacts on air quality.  And as part of the larger Central Texas community, the Air Quality Program is active in regional efforts to improve air quality throughout Central Texas.

 

The mission of the Air Quality Program is to:

  • Develop and implement programs that reduce the impact of our business activities on regional air quality;
  • Promote air quality education and outreach to citizens and local businesses; and
  • Work with regional partners to promote healthy air in Central Texas.

All About Ozone
Ozone in Central Texas
What can you do?
Air Quality Initiatives
Frequently Asked Questions
Contact Us

All About Ozone....

When we talk about ozone as an air quality problem, we're talking about ground-level ozone.  Although ground-level ozone has the same chemical makeup as stratospheric ozone (the protective ozone layer), ozone in our lower atmosphere has a much different effect.  Ground-level ozone is the main component of smog, and is a respiratory irritant, which means that it's hazardous to human health.  It can also harm vegetation.

Ozone is a secondary pollutant that forms when other pollutants in the atmosphere (called precursors) combine in certain weather conditions. Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) "cook" in the hot Texas sun to create ozone (O3).

What CAUSES Ozone?
NOx and VOCs are mostly caused by human activities. Burning fossil fuels releases NOx and many household and industrial chemicals release VOCs.  Some VOCs are biogenic or emitted from plant life. While Austin has significant amounts of biogenic VOCs these are not the causes of our ground-level ozone problem.

In Central Texas, emissions from cars and trucks are the largest contributor to ground-level ozone. Other sources of pollution include factories, construction equipment, dry cleaners, print shops and household activities like mowing your lawn.  That means each and every one of us can DO SOMETHING to help prevent ozone pollution.

Ozone and your HEALTH
Ozone can irritate the lining of the lungs, making it difficult for some people to breathe.  Those most affected by ozone are asthmatics, seniors and people with compromised respiratory systems.  Children are especially vulnerable, since they breathe at a faster rate than adults and can take in a larger volume of polluted air.  The effects of high ozone concentrations (shortness of breath, coughing, and burning sensations in the eyes and lungs) can also be felt by healthy adults, particularly when they exercise outside.

Ozone Action DaySo does a high-ozone day mean you can't be outside?  Not necessarily, since ozone affects different people in different ways and amounts, and many common allergens are also elevated on high-ozone days. If you believe your symptoms may correlate with high ozone levels, talk with your doctor.  If you are one of the many people affected by ozone, try staying indoors on ozone action days, or limiting your outdoor activity.  If you enjoy exercising outdoors, try to do so in the morning when ozone concentrations are usually lowest.  Encourage susceptible children to play indoors or find less strenuous outdoor activities (light gardening, flying kites, Frisbee, etc).

So what's our ozone situation here in Central Texas?

Ozone in Central Texas

How serious is Central Texas’ ozone situation?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets guidelines for six "criteria" air pollutants.  These National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) are authorized by the Clean Air Act.  Areas where pollutant concentrations regularly exceed the NAAQS are in violation of the standards and can be declared "nonattainment" areas.

Ozone is one of these criteria pollutants and has two measurements to determine whether levels in the atmosphere are hazardous to our health.  The 1-hour standard measures the highest peak concentration of ozone levels in any one hour.  The more stringent 8-hour standard measures the highest ozone level averaged over an eight-hour period.  The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and EPA use these two standards to determine how serious the ozone problem is in Central Texas.

The one-hour standard
Local government leaders in Central Texas took action early to make sure that Austin remained in compliance with the 1-hour standard by signing the O3 Flex Agreement with EPA and TCEQ.  O3 Flex promises that regional governments and businesses will take voluntary actions to reduce ozone; in return, the EPA will give "credit" for those actions in future regulatory programs, and will do everything in its power to defer nonattainment status.  Read the O3 Flex Agreement on the Clean Air Force web site.

The eight-hour standard
The region is now concerned with the health-based 8-hour standard.  As of the 2002 ozone season, Central Texas had monitored ozone violations, meaning that we have met the criteria to be declared nonattainment.  The EPA is expected to make those designations in 2004.  However, in 2003 the EPA offered an innovative option to near-nonattainment areas: The Early Action Compact (EAC).

Our ozone season
Throughout Central Texas, ozone season (the time when ozone is most likely to form) begins on April 1st.  From the 1st of April to the end of October, we experience our highest levels of ozone, with levels soaring in the heat of August and September. DO SOMETHING to help prevent ozone pollution.

So how can you do something for healthier air?



Air Quality Initiatives

The following links offer more information on specific Central Texas initiatives, and regional programs in which we participate.

• Clean Air Action Plan
A plan of regional emission reductions measures that will be implemented in 2005.

• CLEAN AIR Force of Central Texas
The CLEAN AIR Force is a non-profit group representing government, business, environmental and community air quality interests.

• Clean Air Partners
Clean Air Partners is an initiative of the CLEAN AIR Force of Central Texas and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.  Local businesses can join Clean Air Partners to pursue voluntary measures that help reduce emissions.

• Central Texas Clean Cities
Clean Cities is a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.  It promotes alternative fuel use among fleet owners to reduce dependence on foreign oil and improve air quality.  The Central Texas Clean Cities program is coordinated out of the Air Quality Program offices and serves the five-county region of Travis, Williamson, Bastrop, Caldwell and Hays counties.

• Commute Solutions
Commute Solutions is a regional partnership promoting "alternative" commute strategies to reduce traffic congestion and associated emissions.  Visit this site to learn how you can change your commute, or implement a program at your workplace.

• Early Action Compact
The Early Action Compact (EAC) is a regional agreement designed to achieve attainment of the 8-hour ozone standard.  It offers local flexibility in choosing emissions reduction strategies and defers the effective date of nonattainment.  Review the EAC here.

• O3Flex Agreement
In April 2008 Austin Mayor Will Wynn and other regional leaders signed the O3 Flex Agreement with EPA and TCEQ to initiate voluntary pollution prevention programs designed to maintain the 1-hour ozone standard.   Review the O3 Flex Agreement on the Clean Air Force web site.

Other Links 

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What can you do?

Since ozone-forming pollutants are primarily caused by human activities, there are many things we can do to help prevent ozone and keep our air healthy.

Here's how you can help...

  • Report smoking vehicles.  If you witness a vehicle that has visible exhaust coming from it's tailpipe make note of the day, time, location, and it's license plate number and report it to the TCEQ's Smoking Vehicle Program by calling 1-800-453-SMOG or on their online form.
  • Drive less.  Walk when you can, ride a bike or take a bus. Just spend less time in your car.
  • Drive a "greener" vehicle.  When it's time to buy a car, look for high gas mileage...or an alternative fuel.
  • Combine errands.  Make lists and plan errands efficiently to avoid extra driving and save time.
  • Don't idle.  Skip the drive-thru and don't leave the engine running while you run in a store or wait for a passenger.
  • Try a commute solution.  Take another way to work: ride the bus, carpool with a neighbor, walk or bike. 
  • Tune up your car.  Proper maintenance can increase gas mileage and reduce pollution.
  • Save energy.  Most energy is produced by burning fossil fuels, so more energy equals more pollution.
  • Use less water.  It takes energy to pump and treat water, so using less water reduces energy waste and pollution.
  • Recycle and reuse.  Find new uses for old materials, and reduce the demand for high-polluting factory processes by recycling as much as possible.
  • Go electric.  Trade your gas-powered lawn equipment for quiet, low-polluting electric equipment.
  • Use hand tools.  Get exercise with an old-fashioned leaf rake or reel mower, and you won't pollute at all.
  • Grill smart.  Lighter fluid contains VOCs that contribute to ozone. Use a charcoal chimney to start your grill, or switch to propane.
  • Use low-VOC paints.  Cut down on fumes with low-VOC paints, and use brushes or rollers instead of spray equipment.
  • Join the club.  Encourage your business to join Clean Air Partners.  This regional coalition helps businesses create and implement clean-air programs.
  • Turn off your monitor.  Computer monitors are energy hogs.  Upgrade to a more efficient model, or turn the monitor off while away from your desk.
  • Recycle.  On a company-wide scale, recycling saves even more.
  • Carpool.  Encourage carpooling by offering ride-matching services and incentives like parking upgrades and cash back.
  • Telework.  Let well-suited employees skip the commute and work from home, even just once a week.
  • Take advantage of technology.  Use conference calls and email to avoid driving to meetings. You'll reduce pollution and save time.
  • Schedule later meetings.  In ozone season, start meetings after 10 a.m. so employees can shift their commutes to non-peak times.
  • Go paperless.  Reduce paper waste and hazardous ink and toner by using electronic documents... and not printing emails.
  • Right-size vehicles.  Use the smallest suitable car from the vehicle pool and make new purchases "green".
  • Start a vanpool (or join). Vanpools offer the convenience of a carpool...without the responsibility of gas and vehicle maintenance.
  • Pedal, paddle or swim.  Enjoy the weather in a non-motorized way.
  • Stay & play in your neighborhood.  Instead of driving, shop locally, take walks and reconnect with your neighborhood.
  • Ride the bus.  It's not just for work and school -- buses run on weekends, too.  That can be a great time to test a route if you're not a regular rider.
  • Pick up a friend.  Pick up your friends when heading to the movies or a night on the town. Sharing the trip saves gas, and makes parking easier.
  • Walk or jog.  Instead of driving to the gym, try getting your exercise the old-fashioned way.
  • Take the bus -- for free! Capital Metro buses are free on Ozone Action Days (OZADs).
  • Refuel after 6pm.  Vapors from gasoline escape when you refill your tank.  Fueling in the evening prevents those vapors from "cooking" all day long.
  • Bring your lunch.  Don't drive, pack!  Or carpool to lunch with co-workers, or walk to a nearby eatery.
  • Put off errands.  If you can, delay your driving errands until the ozone is less severe.
  • Share a ride.  Even if it's not convenient to carpool daily, find a "buddy" to share rides with on OZADs.
  • Don't mow the lawn.  Gasoline mowers create pollution that forms ozone -- skip the lawn work on Ozone Action Days, or wait until evening.
  • Remind friends and co-workers.  Spread the word and organize no-driving activities.  To sign up for OZAD notifications visit the Clean Air Force web site.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Indoor Air Quality
Outdoor Air Quality
Ozone & Other Pollutants
Regional Initiatives & Programs
Vehicles


Indoor Air Quality
The Central Texas Air Quality Program focuses on outdoor air quality issues.  However, we often receive calls from citizens with indoor air quality concerns and do our best to refer callers to the correct agencies.  If your question isn't answered below, please let us know, and we'll try to help you.

How do I find out if there's dangerous mold in my house?
Call the Texas Department of Health at (512) 834-6600, or 1-800-293-0573.

Whom should I contact about asbestos concerns?
Call the Texas Department of Health at (512) 834-6600, or 1-800-293-0573.

I think I smell gas in my house. What should I do?
Get out of your house immediately and call 9-1-1. Do not attempt to relight pilot lights, turn on light switches or call from inside the house (even on a cellular phone).

Where can I call to find out more about carbon monoxide (CO) in my home?
Call the Texas Department of Health at (512) 834-6600, or 1-800-293-0573.

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Outdoor Air Quality
Some of our most common questions about outdoor air quality are answered below.  If you have a question that isn't here, please let us know.

I have a complaint about an unusual smell outside.
Call the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's Regional Office (TCEQ) at (512) 339-2929.  The TCEQ also has a Complaint Line: 1-888-777-3186 to report environmental violations or hazards.

Where can I find out more about the City's Smoking in Public Places Ordinance?
The City's smoking ordinance prohibits smoking within 5 feet of a public entryway.  

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Ozone & Other Pollutants
Read below to learn more about ozone and other pollutants affecting Central Texas.

How is the Air Quality Index (AQI) different from ozone readings?
The EPA's Air Quality Index is a guide to the overall quality of air in a region based on levels of major pollutants.  The AQI represents the health risk from the most severe pollutant on any given day.  In the Austin area, that's usually ozone.

Air Quality Index GraphicAn AQI forecast is issued as both a number and a color-coded scale.  AQI numbers are very close to the parts-per-billion (ppb) measurement for ozone, but not the same.  The AQI is calculated on a uniform scale for all pollutants.  For instance, a measured ozone level of 85 ppb is equal to an AQI of 100. Both mark the level at which ozone concentrations begin to be unhealthy for sensitive groups.  To learn more about the AQI, visit the EPA's Air Now site to learn more about the AQI.

Aren't we supposed to protect the ozone?
When we talk about ozone in an air quality sense, we're usually talking about ground-level ozone. That's the "bad" ozone that's formed from pollutants where we live and work.  There is an ozone layer high in our atmosphere, sometimes called "good" ozone, that helps protect us from UV radiation.   Although these two types of ozone share the same chemical makeup, they affect us differently. Ground-level ozone is a respiratory irritant and harmful to plant life.  Confusing?  Just remember the ozone rhyme: Good up high, bad nearby.

What other pollutants are a problem in Central Texas?
Currently, ground-level ozone is the only pollutant for which Austin regularly exceeds federal standards.  However, many parts of Texas, including Austin, are becoming concerned about particulate matter, small pieces dust, dirt or other pollutants in the atmosphere.  The US EPA regulates two sizes of particulate matter, PM 10 (particles smaller than 10 microns in diameter) and PM 2.5 (particles below 2.5 microns).  For more information on these regulations, visit the EPA's Air Now website.

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Regional Initiatives and Programs
There are numerous organizations and incentives in our area designed to help businesses and individuals reduce pollution, energy and water consumption.

How can my business get involved?
Local companies can join Clean Air Partners, a partnership of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and the CLEAN AIR Force of Central Texas.  Clean Air Partners helps businesses implement employee commute strategies and improve business processes for a more responsible, less-polluting workplace.  Partners are asked to commit to a voluntary 10% emissions reduction, and to report twice annually on their progress.

How can I get involved as a citizen?
The CLEAN AIR Force is a non-profit group representing business, government, environmental and community interests for cleaner air.  Citizen participation is encouraged throughout Central Texas — go online or call 512-343-SMOG for more information.

How can I get a rebate or discount on an electric lawnmower?
The CLEAN AIR Force operates an incentive program to encourage citizens to trade high-polluting, gas-powered lawnmowers for new electric models.  Rebates are offered periodically, generally in one-day events during the spring and early summer at local vendors.  Contact the CLEAN AIR Force at 512-343-SMOG for details on current events.

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Vehicles
How does your vehicle affect the air quality?  How can you choose a less-polluting vehicle?  What new vehicle purchases are eligible for rebates through the Texas Railroad Commission? 
Visit the Texas Railroad Commission's site or call 1-800-64CLEAR to find out more about the Railroad Commission's propane vehicle rebates.

What is a "green vehicle?"
"Green vehicle" is a term used to describe cars and trucks that emit far fewer pollutants than average vehicles.  Generally, higher gas mileage equates to fewer emissions.  The EPA's Green Vehicle Guide allows you to compare the emissions of different makes and models to select the vehicle that's right for you.

Where can I learn more about hybrid vehicles?
The EPA's Green Vehicle Guide has information about the emissions of all vehicles from the 2000 model year forward.  For information on currently available hybrid vehicles, you can contact the vehicle manufacturer.

How do I report a smoking vehicle?
If you notice a vehicle smoking for 10 seconds or more, call Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's (TCEQ) Smoking Vehicle line at 1-800-453-SMOG.  This is a statewide number, so be prepared to report the vehicle license number, date, time, location and city.  Or report the information using their online form

How can I have my vehicle's emissions tested?
Currently, vehicle emissions tests are required in Travis and Williamson Counties.  The Inspection and Maintenance (I/M) program requires all subject gasoline vehicles 2 to 24 years old registered and primarily operated in the I/M program counties (Travis and Williamson) to undergo an annual emissions inspection test in conjunction with the annual safety inspection. Emissions inspection tests are conducted at all safety inspection stations.  The entire vehicle safety and emissions inspection should be completed in about 20 minutes from the time the vehicle is driven into the inspection bay.  If a vehicle fails the emissions inspection test, the items of failure will be indicated on the Vehicle Inspection Report.  The vehicle should be repaired and returned to the same inspection station with 15 days for a free re-test.  A passing emission inspection test (or test waiver) is required in order to renew vehicle registration or to receive a safety inspection sticker.  For more information on I/M please visit: http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/vi/index.htm

Do older vehicles always have higher emissions?
Emissions standards for manufacturers have become stricter over the years, so most newer cars and trucks are designed to have lower emissions levels than older cars.  However, vehicle maintenance, not age, is the key factor in how much a car or truck pollutes.  A well-maintained older vehicle may have extremely low emissions, and a newer car may have some slight problem that causes it to emit pollutants well above the manufacturer-designed level.  To be on the safe side, keep your car in good repair, no matter what its age, and look for signs (like a drop in gas mileage) to signal a potential emissions problem.

What can I do to reduce my emissions?
Keep your car in good repair and your emissions low, by following your manufacturer's scheduled maintenance guidelines. You can also:

  • Check your tire pressure with an accurate gauge every two weeks.  Low tires are often impossible to detect visually, and can waste as much as 10% of your fuel.
  • Change your oil every 3,000 miles.  Oil reduces engine friction and regular changes can increase gas mileage — saving our air and your money.
  • Change your air filter regularly.  It's easy to do on your own or your mechanic can include it with your regular tune up.
  • Avoid "jackrabbit" starts that can waste fuel and increase pollution.
  • Clean out your trunk.  Driving with unnecesary cargo in your truck bed or trunk can increase fuel consumption.
  • Turn off the engine instead of idling (except when you're idling in traffic).  Skip drive-thru lanes (go inside instead), and turn the car off while you're waiting for a passenger.
  • Skip "warming up" your car.  Modern engines actually warm up faster while in motion, so there's no need to warm up the car, even on a cold day.

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Contact Us

We're happy to help answer questions or hear your comments about air quality in Round Rock.  Please contact us:

By mail:

City of Round Rock
2008 Enterprise Dr.
Round Rock, TX 78664

By phone: (512) 218-6617
By fax: (512) 218-5563
By email:   

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City of Round Rock | 221 East Main Street, Round Rock, Texas 78664 | Phone: (512) 218-5400
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