San Antonio’s air quality cause for concern

ASerbinBy Adrienne Serbin
Pulse Staff Reporter 

San Antonio has the second worst air quality in the state behind Dallas-Fort Worth, according to a recent report by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Yes, San Antonio’s air quality is now worse than Houston’s.

According to the National Institutes of Health, ground-level ozone occurs when sunlight reacts with pollution from motor vehicles, power plants and refineries. Repeated exposure to ground-level ozone may cause permanent damage to the lungs. It can also aggravate asthma and heart disease.

The TCEQ report demands that city officials pass an ordinance to decrease pollution, said Liza Meyer, manager of Special Projects for the City of San Antonio’s Office of Sustainability.

One way to help improve air quality is to use public transportation or carpool.

“The bus is very accessible, and it’s free and gets me where I need to go using the VIA Pass,” said Nauraly Gonzales, a freshman Physiology major. “I normally wait 15 minutes for the bus and when I get outta class, I hope and pray there is a bus waiting.”

Companies will be asked to offer commuter benefits for their employees along with eco-friendly transportation, said Meyer.

An anti-idling ordinance will prohibit 18-wheelers to no more than five minutes of idling time. This will be presented to the San Antonio City Council in December 2015.

Big trucks and cars are part of the problem, but so are small area sources, such as small auto body shops and dry cleaners. CPS Energy, one of the nation’s largest municipally owned energy utility companies, will retire a coal plant to become a more eco-friendly plant starting in 2018.

To help reduce ground-level ozone, area residents can ride a bus, bicycle, walk or carpool instead of driving solo.

“Either my dad, my brother or Grandma bring me to school, and it takes me 30-45 minutes to get to school,” said Mariann Ulcak, a freshman Veterinary Technician major who lives in the San Antonio area.

While some students who live within the area use public transportation, others who live out of town have no choice but to drive themselves to school Monday through Friday. When choosing classes for the semester, planning time spent on the road is key. Combining trips into town along with errands can help reduce car exhaust.

Many people travel by car during the lunch hour. Bringing one’s lunch to work can help reduce air pollution, said Meyer.

Jared VanEpps, a sophomore Communications major who lives in Pleasanton, said people with different schedules could make it difficult to find a carpool or bus schedule to follow.

While the idea of limiting travel time and enforcing new regulations are possible, a timer will be going off for the city to hit goals for improvement. If improvements have not been made by October 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency will mandate cleanup measures, according to the City of San Antonio’s public affairs website.