Ozone levels cause concern at Tahoe

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Ozone levels cause concern at Tahoe

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There's often a lot of attention paid to lake clarity at Tahoe. But researchers say air quality, specifically ozone, is becoming more of an issue, too.

There's often a lot of attention paid to lake clarity at Tahoe. But researchers say air quality, specifically ozone, is becoming more of an issue, too.

Unlike the haze from wildfires, which can hang over the lake on a summer day, ozone can't be seen. Alan Gertler, who's with the Desert Research Institute, says it has been trending up in the Tahoe Basin for the past several years, though.

"That's really a critical problem because not only does it infect environmental health, human health, but it's also a criteria pollutant."

That means it's regulated by the state of California and the federal government.

"And we're getting close to violating those standards."

Those standards are not specific to Tahoe. They're statewide, and Gertler says violating them could have very real economic consequences. Possible scenarios include a reduction in the region's highway fund, and scaling back boating and other kinds of access to the Basin. New strategies would also have to be developed to limit vehicle emissions.

Gertler has done research on air quality that's shown most of the ozone in Tahoe is not coming from places like Sacramento.

"So we have to look at what we're really doing in the Basin to control it."

Due to budget cuts California has cut back on its monitoring stations, so there's no longer any routine monitoring of ozone in Tahoe.

Gertler says while Tahoe air may look pristine, the intense sunlight mixes with emissions to produce ozone. He says the problem is not exclusive to the West Shore. Since it's a region wide issue, Nevada would be impacted, as well.