By Jonathan Williams
Times West Virginian
Last year, when the American Lung Association released its annual State of the Air Report, the Fairmont-Clarksburg metro area was tied for 24th on the list of cities/regions with the most polluted air. The two cities had never been on the list before.
Representatives from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection said the appearance was a fluke because of other areas cleaning up and pointed at a downward trend in state emissions.
This year, Fairmont is safely off the list, and officials say the air is continuing to get cleaner.
“We have a very strong trend down in the fine particulate matter at that Fairmont monitor going back as far as 2005,” said Fred Durham, deputy director of the DEP’s Division of Air Quality. “It’s almost like a straight linear trend down.”
The data, which measured the average maximum level of airborne particulate matter, showed the Fairmont-Clarksburg metro area at 12.1 micrograms per cubic meter, significantly lower than the new areas tied for 24th: Dayton, Ohio, and Birmingham, Ala.
The data used in the report is based on a three-year average of data collected by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s air-monitoring system, which tracks ozone, different kinds of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and other hazardous gases and substances.
The ALA report concentrated on particulate matter 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller (PM2.5). For comparison, a human hair is typically between 40 and 50 micrometers in diameter, and a red blood cell is about 5-10 micrometers.