- Associated Press - Saturday, April 9, 2016

HERNANDO, Miss. (AP) - Federal officials have ruled that DeSoto County meets standards for ozone air pollution.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality made the announcement Friday. The state appealed a 2012 ruling saying DeSoto County was flunking the ozone standard because it was part of the Memphis metropolitan area, even though Mississippi’s ozone monitors in DeSoto County itself didn’t exceed required readings.

In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it would approve Arkansas’ request to rule that Crittenden County, which includes West Memphis, meets federal 2008 ozone standards.

“The Memphis area as a whole has also been redesignated as attaining the standard,” EPA wrote in that news release.

Memphis-area officials have said cleaner car and truck engines, combined with reduced emissions by some major factories in Tennessee helped cut ozone.

Ground-level ozone can trigger health problems, especially for children, older people and those with breathing problems. It can also harm sensitive vegetation and natural areas. Ozone is created by reactions between sunlight and chemicals emitted from sources including vehicle exhaust and factories.

Being free from the restrictions means new or expanding industries won’t have to take expensive anti-smog protections.

“We did not believe that DeSoto County significantly contributed to nonattainment in the Memphis area,” MDEQ Executive Director Gary Rikard said in a statement. “As a native of DeSoto County I am keenly aware of the effect nonattainment could have as an unfair economic impact on the county. Many people in the public and private sectors worked diligently together to get this designation changed to protect public health and the environment but also to ensure the long-term viability of economic development.”

The Department of Environmental Quality created the DeSoto County Air Quality Action Group in 2004 to encourage reduced pollution and keep smog low. The department continues to issue daily ozone forecasts for DeSoto County from April to October, alerting residents and businesses if pollution is supposed to be high.

DeSoto County was the only area in Mississippi ruled noncompliant with ozone standards.

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