The association attributes the improvements to standards set up under the Clean Air Act to regulate sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, diesel engines and coal-fired power plants.
Grand Haven Board of Light & Power General Manager Annette Allen said the local power-generating plant — located on Harbor Island and built in 1983 — has better technology than most.
“Our coal-fired plant is one of the newest in the state,” Allen said. “It was built with much more advanced technology. There are power plants that are just now looking at putting some of the technology in that we already have.”
Allen said the latest American Lung Association air quality report is good news for the county.
“As to why it's improved, I can't tell you anything specific we as a utility have done,” she said. “But we as a utility are very sensitive to the environment and are always looking for what we can be doing to be as environmentally responsible as possible. We continue the process to keep up with industry standards. I think our customers can feel good about what we've done.”
Ottawa County Health Department Communications Manager Shannon Felgner said although the county doesn't regulate air quality, it is committed to improvement.
“While it is good to hear that Ottawa's air quality grade went from an F to a C, we certainly do not deserve a gold star from going from worst to worse," she said. "Poor air quality can impact health outcomes, such as asthma. Studies like this highlight a need for a closer look at air quality.”
Felgner reminds residents to do their part.
“Individually, we can all take simple steps to reduce ozone pollution by following the guidance on ozone action days,” she said. “Since we cannot control sunlight and temperature, reducing our use of nonessential exhaust-producing machines and waiting to fuel up our cars until after dark are the keys.”
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Lynn Fiedler said the lung association uses different methods to measure air quality than the state does.
“We don't agree with their methodology,” said Fiedler, the DEQ assistant division chief for air quality. “We feel we should get an A. We're meeting all the national air quality standards. The American Lung Association uses different standards. Based on our monitoring, most of Michigan is meeting all the standards.”
To read more of this story, see Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.