Special on Air Quality

by Kelly Simmons and Ana Vina

Mexico’s air quality standards for ozone have been violated in Juarez on 14 occasions over the past 5 months according to the director of the Urban Development and Municipal Ecology agency, Oscar Ibanez. Among the main contributors are vehicle emissions. There are currently 350,000 registered vehicles in Ciudad Juarez and no emission standards. Last year there were 8 violations of the NOM for ozone, which allows 0.11 parts per million during an eight hour period. In August the average ozone level for the city was 0.129 parts per million.

The Municipal Environmental Committee in Juarez has announced it will propose mandatory emissions testing as part of the requirements for registering vehicles, starting in January 1997. The Committee, chaired by Mayor Ramon Galindo, was formed in August and will be making changes and corrections to the Municipal Environmental Regulations.

In related news, the Director for Urban Development and Municipal Ecology is making contingency plans for the possibility of high pollution levels and thermal inversions this winter. The City is working with the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States, the National Institute of Ecology and the El Paso Health Department on the exchange of air quality data via computers. Monitors are expected to be installed in October and the resources to hook up the data lines have already been approved, stated Oscar Ibanez, director of the Agency. Through the system, the City will know the pollution levels and be able to take proper measures to control them, as well as make public health alerts like those issued in El Paso. Currently the City has three different monitoring stations that register carbon monoxide levels every 15 seconds as well as ozone levels, however, the data is only reported from the stations every week, instead of every day.

Meanwhile, a state delegate for the Federal Environment Protection Agency (Procuraduria Federal de Proteccion Ambiental, Profepa), Maria del Pilar Lopez Marco stated that air pollution at the border is not all that serious compared to last year because of regular inspections of brick manufacturers instituted over the past year. Profepa is continuing to meet with the industry to promote the use of gas in brick manufacturing instead of burning tires, cardboard, plastics and contaminated sawdust for the firing process. However, she recognized that 6 inspectors are not enough to cover 350 manufacturers in the city. The Agency is working with the industry and Canacintra, the Industrial Chamber of Commerce, to promote the use of gas and move those who don’t switch to the cleaner burning fuel out of the area. The Chihuahua State Agency for Urban Development and Environment is also analyzing the creation of an industrial park for the City’s brick industry that would offer natural gas for firing in order to lower the City’s air pollution levels. A similar project will start in the capital city where they have obtained 40 hectares of land for relocating their factories.

Sources: Diario de Juarez, El Norte

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