TVA study finds big improvements in air quality since 1990s

TVA study finds big improvements in air quality since 1990s

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TVA's air quality testing station in Walland. TVA's air quality testing station in Walland.
The air in the area has become thinner and less hazy since 1999. The air in the area has become thinner and less hazy since 1999.
"The haziest days are much cleaner, so when you come here expecting a good view you're likely to get it," Great Smoky Mountain National Park Air Specialist Jim Renfro. "The haziest days are much cleaner, so when you come here expecting a good view you're likely to get it," Great Smoky Mountain National Park Air Specialist Jim Renfro.

By DREW GARDNER
6 News Reporter

WALLAND (WATE) - The Tennessee Valley Authority is taking part in a major study of the air quality in the Southeastern United States. A testing station has been set up in the Smoky Mountains.

The Smoky Mountains are known for being surrounded in thicker air, but that thick air has been thinning in recent years and now scientists are getting the data to prove it.

"The haziest days are much cleaner, so when you come here expecting a good view you're likely to get it," Great Smoky Mountain National Park Air Specialist Jim Renfro. "The hazy day is the exception. Ten or twenty years ago it was like that every day and the clear day was the exception."

Renfro has been working in the park since the 1980s and has seen the shift first hand.

"Since about 1999, air quality on all fronts ozone levels, particulate matter, haze and acid rain, have all gone down significantly," said Renfro.

The EPA, the Tennessee Valley Authority and at least four other agencies are now funding a $20 million project to test the air quality and measure the effects of manmade emissions.

The testing station set up in the foothills of Blount County began taking measurements on June 1 and has already put out readings showing dramatic reductions.

"We see a 95% reduction in sulfur emissions," said Senior Manager for TVA Environmental Monitoring and Analysis Dennis Yankee. "We see about a 90% reduction in nitrogen compound and those are all things that contribute to poor air quality."

The TVA now says they need to figure how to adjust to the changed atmosphere.

"We have to understand the base chemistry and the base science before we can really affect a change," said Yankee.

The hope is once they get all the figures from this study, they will have an even better idea of how to continue improving our air quality.

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