TULSA, Okla. - As Oklahoma sizzles toward the hottest weeks of summer, the state's metropolitan areas already face a challenging situation in keeping away from the federal "dirty air" list.
Oklahoma City violated ozone standards four times and Tulsa violated them twice before July 4. While it takes multiple years of data to land either metro area in nonattainment, bad days early in ozone season inch the readings higher and can reverberate for years, state and local officials said.
"If the EPA could make a designation on one year of data we would be in non-compliance," said Jerry Church of the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments. "We had excessive readings in June. If we have a regular July and August, the excessive numbers will be even higher."
Central Oklahoma faces a tumultuous situation, Church said. ACOG, which does transportation planning for the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, started work on what being out of compliance could mean starting in 2007, Church said.
"This is more than a nuisance," Church said. "We're very worried. We're not pleased."
Nancy Graham, who coordinates the ozone alert program in the Tulsa area, cautioned people about the danger of becoming complacent. So far, the Tulsa area has had seven ozone alerts.
Oklahoma's problem is a function of weather patterns. A dry spring followed by some hot, windless days to start the summer spawned ground-level ozone formation, officials said.
"We don't have control of the weather pattern," said Monty Elder, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality. "We can take steps like not fueling up cars during the day or running lawn mowers, but we have no control over the weather."
For instance, the two highest ozone readings this year have come from monitors in Terral in Jefferson County and Burneyville in Love County. Fewer than 500 people live in the two towns combined, according to U.