Bad Air in Delaware Friday and Saturday–Delaware Air Quality Forecast, Valid Friday, June 4 (Code Orange – Air Quality Action Day)

Notes from Green Delaware:

Code yellow forecast for Saturday.

We’ve received many messages from people saying they appreciate receiving these air quality messages.  Many people in Delaware experience noticeable harm to their health and/or quality of life when air pollution is high.  All experience harm whether they notice it or not.  The effects of air pollution in include sneezing, watering eyes, asthma attacks … to cancer, strokes, heart attacks, learning disabilities and brain damage.  The list grows constantly.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has established pollution limits (“National Ambient Air Quality Standards“) for six of the tens of thousands of known air pollutants.  Delaware officially violates two of these six:  Fine Particles and Ozone. This is what generates the system of Alerts (Code Green, Yellow, Orange, Red, and Purple.)  Delaware has many Green (“Good”) Days, lots of Yellow (“Moderate”) Days, more than a few Orange (“Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups”) days, and occasional Red (“Unhealthy”) Days. The system also has “Very Unhealthy” and “Hazardous” categories, which Delaware has not officially seen.  This “Air Quality Index” system is described here.

This alert system is helpful but limited.  Note, for example, that it is triggered only by Particles and Ozone as forecast or measured at official monitors.  So a Green day does not mean you aren’t being harmed by other pollutants, or by nearby emissions not measured.

Delaware has only nine monitoring locations (map here).  Six monitor ozone levels and three monitor Particulate levels.  For example, the nearest particle monitoring is over thirty miles from the notorious Indian River coal plant.

In the past, Green Delaware has generally reported only Orange and Red forecasts.  We are now going to include Yellow forecasts because (1) people have asked for it, and (2) we think the Air Quality Index system understates the actual health risk.  One way it does this is to disregard the effects of multiple pollutants.  For example, today’s forecast is Orange for ozone and Yellow for Fine Particles.  This officially equals an Orange alert.  But air pollutants act together, not separately, so an Orange and a Yellow should probably add to a Red alert or higher.

Governor Jack Markell, New Castle County Executive Chris Coons, and others are boasting about the projected reopening of the Delaware City Refinery.  This can be expected to add twenty million pounds per year of pollutants to Delaware’s air.  From  “Earth Day thoughts …

A good example of what we have lost is a comparison of 1971, when Governor Russ Peterson marshalled public support for a Coastal Zone Act to keep a refinery out of Delaware, to 2010, when Governor Jack Markell connived with special interests to restart the shut-down Delaware City refinery.  Public participation in this “decision” was zero, Markell’s staff saying something like “we don’t discuss economic development initiatives.”   In 2007, its last year of full operation after extensive clean-up investments, the Delaware City Refinery belched out nearly twenty million pounds of health-damaging air pollutants alone.  As Markell reportedly offered new owners a twenty million dollar bribe (of our money) to reopen the refinery, one could say without too much of a stretch that Markell is paying an old, dirty industry one dollar a pound/year to resume polluting Delaware.

We wish everyone a safe and healthy weekend.


State of Delaware Air Quality Forecast for:
Friday, June 4, 2010

(New Castle County including City of Wilmington)

Fine Particles (PM2.5): CODE YELLOW (MODERATE)


(Kent and Sussex Counties including City of Dover)

Fine Particles (PM2.5): CODE YELLOW (MODERATE)



A hot, humid air mass remains in place on Friday. Winds will be northwest early in the day then diminish and shift southwest in the afternoon. With scattered clouds and high regional concentrations of pollutants, we expect ozone concentrations to reach the Code Orange range with highest concentrations across northern Delaware.

Extended Forecast:
More clouds and rain return Saturday and air quality improves although PM levels will remain in the moderate range. A bit cooler and less humid Sunday with moderate [Code Yellow] air quality.


air quality.


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