An annual report says Louisville’s air is better than it’s been in recent years. But the metro area’s air quality still ranks among the worst in the nation in two categories.
The American Lung Association releases its “State of the Air” report every year, to rank the air quality of counties and metropolitan areas. The Lung Association has been releasing the reports for 13 years, and the Louisville area’s air quality is the best it’s ever been during that time period.
That’s the good news. But the bad news is that Louisville still ranks among the top 10 most polluted metropolitan areas in the country for particle pollution—which can be caused by industrial or vehicle emissions. The area also got a failing grade for ozone pollution.
Betsy Janes of the Lung Association’s Kentucky chapter said much of the progress is due to the federal Clean Air Act.
“While we’ve made progress and the Clean Air Act is working, there’s certainly more work to be done and we can do better here in Jefferson County,” she said. “It really cleaned up the air from a state in which it used to be—in some cases—there would be an immediate threat to life, just by being outside.”
Janes says a few changes coming up within the next few years should help improve air quality. At the Gallagher Power Plant in Indiana, Duke Energy retired two of its coal-fired units in February, and retrofitted the other two units with pollution controls. And Louisville Gas and Electric plans to replace one of its two Louisville coal-fired power plants with natural gas by 2016.
Louisville Air Pollution Control District spokesman Tom Nord says the APCD agrees with the report’s conclusions.
“We agree with the American Lung Association’s assessment that Kentuckiana’s air quality has greatly improved over the past decade,” he said in an email. “But we also agree that a lot of work still needs to be done, and we will continue to push all sectors of the community – industrial and mobile sources alike – to reduce harmful particulate matter and ozone.”
The Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Ashland, Kentucky areas also ranked among the most polluted in the nation.