The flawed ambient monitoring testing is probably worse than you can imagine. Connecticut's monitoring network is shown at http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/air_monitoring/ct_airmonitors2013.pdf
. There are 11 monitoring stations for ozone which is caused by NOx and VOCs reacting with sunlight to create smog. If you look at the map, 6 of the 11 monitoring stations are along the southern border of Connecticut. Because the prevailing wind comes from the west and up the coast, these monitors actually represent emissions that are generated by power plants, industry, and automobiles in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania – not from Connecticut. Also note that these 6 monitors are located along the heavily traveled I-95 corridor. However, if any of these monitors trips the allowable ozone concentration by 1 ppm, it means the entire state of Connecticut is considered to have unhealthy air. Although that is obviously pretty stupid, it’s even worse because EPA then requires Connecticut to come up with a plan to lower allowable emissions levels. Because Connecticut has no control over emissions from other states, and it has no control over emissions from all the cars, trucks and buses along I-95 (EPA sets those standards), it is forced to lower allowable emissions from power plants and industry, which forces companies to install the most stringent air pollution control equipment in the country to attack a problem that it clearly can’t solve. It’s insane.
We have excellent data from these 11 monitoring sites because each location has a very large shed or a mobile trailer containing very expensive monitoring equipment that is continuously calibrated to stringent EPA standards, and the data is continuously generated all day long. But all it takes is an exceedance at one of the 11 sites for EPA to determine that the entire population of Connecticut was exposed to unhealthy air. To be accurate, EPA takes the average of the fourth highest reading in an entire year, and looks at a 3-year average of those numbers, and then compares it to the 8-hour ozone standard of 0.075 ppm to determine whether the state needs to tighten their emission limits. EPA proposed earlier this year to lower that standard to somewhere between 0.065-0.070 ppm, which will clearly put more of the United States in non-compliance with the new standard and allow environmental organizations to say that even more of our country is exposed to unhealthy air.
You are right – we need more data because the data we have is certainly not representative of the air the majority of people breathe, and we need smaller instrumentation so that it is easier to locate monitoring stations throughout the state instead of next to major highways. However, with the “speed” EPA moves, it would take decades for them to revise their nationwide monitoring network, or the way they determine compliance.