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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 13 Comments

The Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency has an air monitoring network of 58 samplers located at 18 monitoring sites throughout Hamilton, Butler, Clermont, Clinton, and Warren counties. In 2018 alone, the monitoring network generated 332,431 hours of valid monitoring data for critical pollutants including ozone, particulate matter, and nitrogen dioxide.

The Agency achieved a 97% capture rate in 2018 for all required monitors combined; the requirement set by U.S. EPA is 75%. That means that 97% of all possible hours or days of air monitoring data collected by the Agency were valid and reported to the national database. For the first two quarters of 2019, the capture rate for particulate matter is 99%. The ozone capture rate for March through June of 2019 is 98% (ozone monitoring begins March 1 each year). 

monitorOur Monitoring and Analysis team includes technicians in the field, analysts in the laboratory, and managers reviewing incoming data and reports daily; all contribute to the exacting work of collecting, analyzing, and reporting air quality data. A great deal of individual effort and teamwork is invested in keeping the complex monitoring network running, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Technicians and managers monitor the incoming data each day to identify potential issues and prioritize daily tasks. Each monitoring site is visited by technicians at least once a week to conduct routine checks and maintenance. Some data loss is inevitable due to required checks, occasional power outages, mechanical issues, and even wildlife interference. Something as simple as a spider building a web in a gaseous intake line could invalidate data.  Our team takes a proactive approach to identify potential problems early in order to prevent data invalidation when possible, and to minimize unnecessary downtime.

The Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency team prides itself in maintaining an excellent capture rate for the benefit of U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA, as well as the public.

You may view hourly and daily air quality data on the Agency’s website, via the Air Quality Map and the Concentration Chart. If you have any questions about the work we do here at the Agency, reach out with our Contact Us form.

Posted by joy.landry  On Aug 30, 2019 at 8:54 AM

The National Weather Service Wilmington office has issued an excessive heat warning for southwest Ohio, including Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton, and Warren counties. The excessive heat warning went into effect at 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 18 through Saturday, July 20 at 8 p.m.

These high temperatures, combined with the abundant sunshine, are ideal condition for ozone concentrations to rise. Ozone concentrations that exceed 101 on the air quality index may cause members of sensitive groups to experience health effects. Sensitive groups include people with lung disease (such as asthma), older adults, and children. The U.S. EPA recommends that people in sensitive groups avoid prolonged outdoor exertion. The Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency will issue an Air Quality Advisory when ozone concentrations are expected to reach the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups level of the Air Quality Index.

You can view real-time ozone concentrations on our website. The chart shows the hourly ozone concentrations at the Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency’s eight ozone monitors.

You may sign up to receive air quality emails at EnviroFlash which will let you know if the Agency has issued an Air Quality Advisory.


Posted by joy.landry  On Jul 18, 2019 at 3:02 PM

Fireworks on Independence Day is credited to Founding Father John Adams who wrote to his wife Abigail that this day “ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade…..and illuminations”.

The Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency tends to see a spike in particulate matter (PM) at our monitors during July 4, however they are short-lived and often dissipate quickly. Fireworks create smoke and haze that is classified as a fine particle. These particles can be directly emitted from sources such as forest fires, or they can form when gases emitted from power plants, industries and automobiles react in the air.

The health-based standard for PM is for a 24-hour period and fireworks are not typically a concern for the general public because the occurrence is so quick. However, people with respiratory or cardiac issues are more sensitive and have potential to experience health effects from fireworks. These individuals should be aware that fireworks create fine particulates and consider staying indoors during and after fireworks displays.

Enjoy your local fireworks and if you’d like to see real-time PM readings, visit our website.

PM Chart

Posted by joy.landry  On Jun 28, 2019 at 1:59 PM 2 Comments


The Southwest Ohio Air Quality Agency, as a public service, conducts pollen and mold counts during the work week. We post the results on our website to help residents track their reactions to local allergens. The Agency has a Rotorod sampler on the roof of our main office. Each morning, one of our Monitoring and Analysis team members collects the sample and literally counts and identifies the various pollen grains and mold spores in the sample. We make use of a high-powered microscope.

Well every once in a while, we find a surprise species! If certain insects flourish in wet, humid conditions, then our recent pollen and mold samples support the theory.

Several samples have revealed insect parts or nearly fully-intact bugs on our pollen and mold sampler in recent weeks. The first photo shows the wings of fruit flies. Can you identify the mystery insect in the second photo?

Here is the insect at 100x magnification.
And the same insect at 400x magnification.
big bug

Posted by joy.landry  On Jun 20, 2019 at 11:32 AM 1 Comment

Ozone season in southwest Ohio officially began on March 1. A cooler than usual April gave waydsafas to a taste of summer-like weather during late May. However, those warmer temperatures and sunshine were accompanied by winds, clouds, and/or rain showers that kept the atmosphere in flux. This prevented ozone from building to concentrations that would be considered unhealthy for sensitive groups. For the first time since 2015, our region enjoyed the month of May with no Air Quality Advisories.

The Agency issues an Air Quality Advisory when unhealthy levels of ozone, or particulate matter, are expected. You can receive email notifications of Air Quality Advisories by subscribing to Enviroflash.

Posted by joy.landry  On May 31, 2019 at 11:30 AM 5 Comments

The Agency provides pollen and mold counts as a public service each year from February through November. Counts are performed Monday through Friday. The sampler is located at the Agency’s office and it captures a sample one minute in each ten minutes for a 24-hour period. Residents who suffer from allergies may find the counts helpful for tracking symptoms that correspond with the prevalent allergens of that day.

April has seen several "Very High" pollen days. To date, April 23 is the spike day with a pollen count of 3450, driven by the pollination of oak trees (2018). You can find daily pollen counts at SouthwestOhioAir.org

oak pollen
Microscopic view of a single grain of oak pollen

Posted by joy.landry  On Apr 29, 2019 at 4:10 PM
Congratulations to Summit Country Day for going idle-free. Thanks to the leadership of several students, their campus now has several "Idle Free Zone" signs that remind parents, staff, visitors, and students to turn of their engines when they arrive at school. Reducing unnecessary vehicle emissions can help improve air quality on campus. 

You can order our free "Idle-Free Zone" signs by visiting SouthwestOhioAir.org.

Posted by joy.landry  On Apr 26, 2019 at 12:31 PM
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