Klamath County may face tighter air quality rules

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. (AP) — Klamath County could face tighter regulations on burning next year as a result of weather conditions that have led to high concentrations of fine particles in the air this winter.

Cold weather, a temperature inversion and stagnant air have combined to trap the particles from burning wood and fuel exhaust, the Klamath Falls Herald and News reported Friday (http://bit.ly/Ydp4VJ ).

The National Weather Service has much of Western Oregon, excluding the coast, and much of Central Oregon under an air stagnation advisory. The cold, still weather, and temperature inversions that keep pollutants trapped closer to the ground, make for poor air quality on valley floors.

Klamath County was out of compliance with federal air standards Wednesday for a second time. The forecast for Saturday is expected to mean a third time out of compliance — a threshold under a 2009 plan for the region to attain air quality goals.

The noncompliance would lead to tighter restrictions in 2014, including a ban on open fireplaces and further regulation of industry.

The county is urging people with woodstoves to use alternate sources of heat as the inversion lingers, until at least Sunday, said Ramon Quinn, county environmental health specialist.

The fine particles in question are a health hazard — they can cause heart and respiratory problems — and they have economic effects. Klamath Falls leaders had hoped to reach "attainment" goals under the anti-pollution laws so that the community could attract more industries.

Klamath County Commissioner Dennis Linthicum said he will ask for an exception under the Clean Air Act, arguing that conditions with a strong inversion and record low temperatures qualify as an "extreme weather event."

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Information from: Herald and News, http://www.heraldandnews.com

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