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Muscatine Air Quality

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Muscatine has had issues with air quality for years, and while businesses and the city have taken steps forward, Muscatine air is still not meeting standards. That's why the EPA is now recommending the entire county be designated in "nonattainment" of national air quality standards for sulfur dioxide. That means existing businesses will need to crack down on their emissions and potential developers will have to follow very strict rules to make sure they're not adding to the problem.

 City leaders say air quality is a big concern and something they are taking very seriously, but they say it's a work in progress and being classified as a "nonattainment" area could have harmful economic effects. Right now the Iowa DNR is asking for comments from businesses, city leaders, and residents about what they think should be done.

City leaders say they are writing a letter asking the EPA to let them continue to work on lowering emissions. If the EPA doesn't like that plan, city leaders say they will ask the EPA to change their designation from county wide to just city wide. They say there are areas of the county that are not as heavily affected by the emissions and they don't want to scare away all companies looking to relocate to the area.

"With the nonattainment status, if an industry is looking to expand or locate in a community and we have that designation as a nonattainment community, it imposes a number of regulations on them. It puts us out of the market for those kinds of positions or those kind of jobs, that's a major economic disadvantage to the city," said Steven Boka, Muscatine Community Development Director.

While the city wants to avoid the "non attainment" status, some residents welcome the label. Scott Cozad has lived in Muscatine all of his life and he says the air has always been a concern.

"It's not good, it's bad, like I said some days it is worse than others because of the wind direction. You can't have your windows open in the summer time or anything because it's so bad," Cozad said.

Cozad says while its something he's used to, it does worry him, especially since he recently lost his brother-in-law to emphysema.

"My sister, she's an older lady, her husband just passed away last year from emphysema. He was on oxygen for a year probably."

Cozad says he doesn't know if the high levels of sulfur dioxide had anything to with his passing, but he says it certainly didn't help.

"He couldn't even come out on his porch, he'd have to wear a mask over his face in order to keep the stuff off of his face."

He says while he understands the "non attainment" status could impact economic development, he thinks the air quality has already done that.

"There's a lot of people that don't want to come down here just for that reason. I mean I am sure that is a reason a lot of the businesses don't work down here. I'm sure that's the reason a lot of the houses don't sell around here."

The Iowa DNR is accepting public comment on the issue until March 15th. Then they have to submit a proposal to the EPA, which is also seeking comments. They plan to make a decision on the designation by June.