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It was a beautiful, clear morning on September 18. Good conditions for “Smoke School”. This semi-annual certification program challenges participants to accurately read the opacity of 50 different smoke percentages within 15%. Smoke opacity emitted from the testing equipment vary by five percent from zero to 100%. The first 25 emissions are “white smoke” and the last 25 are “black smoke.” The day begins when the contractor, Eastern Technical Associates, discharges a variety of smoke, revealing if the plume is 25%, 50% or 75% opacity so participants can establish a baseline. Weather conditions affect how the smoke may be viewed. For example, it can be more difficult to discern contrast on a sunny day because of the glare.

smoke school
Once participants have become acclimated to the conditions, the official test begins. The 50-smoke test run may take up to an hour; after the 25 white smoke emissions, ETA adjusts their equipment for the black smoke part of the test. When the test is completed, ETA reads out the correct answers and testers self-grade. Then their testing sheets are submitted to ETA for verification. 

Fall 2019 Smoke School had 12 representatives from the Agency, as well as air quality professionals from Dayton, northern Kentucky, and Ohio EPA, and industry representatives. If an individual does not pass the first run, they have four more opportunities that day to do so. Passing Smoke School certifies participants in U.S. EPA Reference Method Nine, established by U.S. EPA in 1974. This authorizes an air quality professional to make stack observations in the field, especially if there is a concern with a facility violating its air permit limitations 

Congratulations to all 12 of our Agency team members for successfully completing Smoke School this September.


Posted by joy.landry  On Sep 30, 2019 at 1:20 PM

Ragweed, Be Gone!

One of the cruel ironies of Mother Nature: just as the summer heat and humidity begin to dissipate, ragweed rears its ugly head. This nasty, pervasive pollen strikes in late August and prevails until early October or more correctly the first frost, rendering those sensitive to its grains to a state of misery.

A single ragweed plant may produce as much as a billion grains of pollen per season which are easily distributed by a fair breeze. Ragweed pollen can travel as far as two miles up into the atmosphere and have been tracked as far as 400 miles out to sea!

Those who are reactive to ragweed pollen may experience sneezing, running nose, and itchy eyes. What can you do? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Track pollen, using our website. The Agency posts pollen and mold counts, Monday through Friday. Keep in mind that you are seeing the previous day’s count as the collection period is a 24-hour period from 7 a.m. on the previous day to 7 a.m. to the posting day.
  2. Track your body’s reaction to those levels as each person may respond differently to pollen counts.
  3. If possible, avoid outdoor exposure during mornings, when pollen tends to peak, especially on breezy days.
  4. Despite the cooler temperatures, you might be best keeping the windows closed to minimize pollen from entering your home.
  5. If you have been outside, remove clothing and shower right away to remove pollen grains from your hair and skin.
  6. Consult with your health care professional for the best medicinal options to bring you relief.

Ragweed even looks scary under the microscope!

Posted by joy.landry  On Sep 09, 2019 at 11:54 AM 2 Comments