Scott Cardno is the new Director of Natural Resources for the City of Huntsville. (See our CityBlog feature on Cardno.) He explains his department’s process and answers other related questions in this interview with CityBlog senior writer Mark McCarter:
(Q) Simple question. What does your department do?
(A) We have two sides to the house. We’re a local air pollution control agency. We issue permits to local industries. We handle air monitoring at five sites.
(Q) What goes on at those sites?
(A) We have the main station by the old municipal golf course, a big block building at the entrance. I don’t know how many people even notice it’s there, or what it’s for. I’m sure many people look at it and go, “What in the world is this?”
We have another site out on Capshaw on a piece of agriculture property and we have three down the center corridor of city – the old fire station down south, one at the City Hall garage and one at the fire station on Pulaski Pike.
The main station has several particulate samplers and an ozone analyzer. The three down the center are particulate samplers. The one at Capshaw is only for ozone.
(Q) What is being studied?
(A) Three different things. Take the main site for example. Ozone analyzers measure ground-level ozone concentration from March through the end of October. That’s ozone season. The reason we run a sample of that is there are national ambient air quality standards that we’d like to meet. If we’re below those, then it’s basically good air quality that we have.
The particulate samplers we have are two different types. We have coarse particulate samplers that measure 10 microns and smaller in size, and samplers that measure 2 ½ microns and smaller. Those run every few days.
We also have a 2 ½ sampler we run at the garage that has a special purpose, that runs 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day. When you see something about the air quality index, that’s where the information comes from.
(Q) Are we good?
(A) Absolutely. We are attainment (meeting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards) for both ozone and particulate. We’re in pretty good shape.
(Q) How has that happened?
(A) A lot of it has to do with emissions reduction from vehicles, emissions reductions from nearby power plants. If you look at a trend analysis of ozone, you’ll definitely see a decline in Huntsville.
(Q) So, is the worst thing in our air the pollen?
(A) Well, pollen isn’t good for you. Especially those days when you can see it piled on your car and driveway.
(Q) What about the cooperation of local industries?
(A) We’re very fortunate the industries we deal with are constantly looking for ways to reduce their emissions. We’re very fortunate.
(Q) OK, we got sidetracked on air quality. What else does Natural Resources handle?
(A) We have four city ordinances we enforce – on blasting, burning, noise and storm water. We do the environmental work if the city is purchasing property. We do a site assessment. We have a monitoring group of people and we have enforcement, with some cross-over.
(Q) What’s a typical day for your staff?
(A) It depends on the specialty. With ambient equipment, there’s always something that needs attention — changing out filters, calibrating motors, ensuring that it meets EPA requirements. We also submit that monitored data to EPA and on their website. We have to meet all these quality control measures.
(Q) What are the ordinances that affect most of us daily?
(A) Noise complaints come in fairly regularly. It’s wide variety, anything from trash collection early in the morning to music. In the spring and fall, in open window season, it tends to pick up more.
Then there’s storm water. The main complaints we typically get are people washing out their paint brushes over a sewage drain, motor oil, car washes, whatever you can pour. There are restrictions. In reality, though there are some exemptions, rain water is the only thing that should be going down a storm sewer.
(Q) How much clout do you have in enforcement?
(A) When somebody violates, we write a citation (that leads to a fine). The violation of air permit side of things is an administrative process with notices of violation, and it’s more complex.
For most of the violations, it’s people going, “Oh, I didn’t realize” or “Right, I shouldn’t have done that.”