Lycoming County residents can breathe a little easier, as experts agree that local air quality is slowly improving thanks to measures taken in accordance with the Clean Air Act.
What they don't agree on is by how much the air actually has improved.
According to a State of the Air 2012 study recently released by the American Lung Association, the state's air quality is the best it has been in the last 12 years. However, Pennsylvania still has some of the most polluted metropolitan areas in the nation.
Lycoming County received a "D" grade for high ozone days, meaning the county experienced eight to nine days of high ozone concentration in the three-year period reviewed.
Ozone is present in our atmosphere all the time. In the summer months hot, long days and low wind will cause ozone to form at the ground level, where it can cause lung irritation and damage, especially for those who already suffer with breathing difficulties.
Dan Spadoni, state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman, disagrees with the findings of the study.
"The department is reviewing this report and the methodology that was used by the lung association in assigning grades to each individual county," Spadoni said.
"We monitor locally for ozone at a station in Montoursville and that information is available real time on our webpage," he added.
Spadoni said the air quality for Lycoming County is within the guidelines set by the Clean Air Act.
Kevin Stewart, the American Lung Association's director of Environmental Health for the Mid-Atlantic Region, explained while a "D" rating sounds poor, it actually is an improvement over past years, when Lycoming County consistently has received an "F" rating.
"With the Lung Association, our point of view is that any bad air day is one day too many for someone with a lung condition like asthma or chronic bronchitis," Stewart said.
He explained that the Lung Association's study had used raw data from the DEP. However, the calculations used in the study were different than the calculations used to determine if an area passes or fails the Clean Air Act requirements.
"That's why an area might pass the air quality standard and do poorly in our study; we're using the same numbers in different calculations," he added.
Those who want to see the current statistics from the Montoursville monitoring station may do so at www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/deputate/airwaste/aq/aqm/psiwcent.htm