Dutchess air quality gets lower rating

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Residents of Ulster County can breathe a little easier these days.

Folks in Orange, Dutchess, Rockland, Westchester and Putnam counties, not so much.

The latest State of the Air Report by the American Lung Association gave Ulster County a passing grade for ozone pollution, while giving the other five Hudson Valley counties with ozone monitors failing grades. The report, which analyzed data taken from 2007-2009, found the air quality in the Hudson Valley, as a whole, to be improving slowly.

Only Dutchess experienced an increase in unhealthy ozone days.

“(E)fforts underway to clean up air pollution are making a difference,” a news release from the association said.

Those efforts in Ulster County include significant investments in the development of a cleaner public transit system, said Dennis Doyle, director of planning for the county. Doyle also noted decreased commuting in the county, a result of higher gas prices and the poor economy, as well as the increased use of solar and other renewable energy sources on residential homes.

The county received the Hudson Valley’s only passing grade, a C for ozone pollution, while also reducing the number of “orange” days, in which ozone levels are unhealthy for the young, sick or elderly, from six days to three.

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s Dutchess County. It was one of only two counties in the state with more high ozone days than recorded in the 2010 report.

Orange County saw a slight improvement, with 11 orange and three red ozone days, compared with 16 orange and three red ozone pollution days in the prior report.

Sullivan County does not have a monitor.

Dutchess County Legislator Joel Tyner said he is not surprised at the poor results for his county. He’s been prodding the Legislature for years to initiate more aggressive policies to reduce pollution, including the promotion of renewable and clean energy, as well as intense recycling.

He has also been a strong critic of the county’s Poughkeepsie incinerator.

“I don’t know if it’s willful ignorance or capitulation to special interests or some combination thereof” that is opposing proposals for change, he said.

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