Air pollution in city too high, EPA says

Photo by J. Patrick Pepper

Photo by J. Patrick Pepper

A semi rumbles down Schaefer toward the sprawling industrial district home to both the Ford Rouge Plant and Severstal North America. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said airborne particle pollutants from factories and trucks like this one have made the area’s air unhealthy to breathe.

Photo by J. Patrick Pepper

Photo by J. Patrick Pepper

Exhaust rises from the Ford Rouge Plant. Air samples taken from a nearby monitoring station show high levels of particle pollution, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — Local air quality readings do not meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for fine particulate matter, according to a letter sent recently to Gov. Jennifer Granholm. The letter said that samples taken from an air quality monitoring station in the city’s southern section exceeds acceptable levels of particulate matter pollution up to 2.5 micrometers, or about one-thirtieth the width of a human hair. The monitoring station is downwind of the south-side industrial district that includes the Ford Rouge Plant, SeverStal North America and an oil refinery, among other industrial businesses.

Particle pollution is defined by the EPA as a mix of microscopic solid and liquid pollutants suspended in air that can include acids, organic and nonorganic chemicals, dust and allergens. Frequent exposure has been linked to asthma, bronchitis and premature death through heart and lung ailments, the EPA said.

Pollution levels in Dearborn are being blamed for putting Wayne and six other southeast Michigan counties out of compliance with EPA regulations, even though readings outside the city were largely within limits. The noncompliance status will require tougher emissions standards for new businesses that move into the area.

The state is protesting the EPA’s ruling, saying the data was taken over a three-year period and doesn’t take into account recent cuts in manufacturing production that have lowered pollutant levels. The state also has argued that only Wayne County should be labeled as out of compliance, and not the others.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality did not return telephone calls seeking comment for this story.