Non-attainment area is an area considered to have air quality worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards as defined in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970.
Non-attainment areas must have and implement a plan to meet the standard, or risk losing some forms of federal financial assistance.
An area may be a non-attainment area for one pollutant and an “attainment area” for others. In October 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the approval of Georgia’s request to have the Atlanta Nonattainment area redesignated to attainment status for ozone Nation Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS). The Atlanta Nonattainment Area includes the counties of Bartow, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnnett, and Henry.
Ozone is formed from dioxygen by the action of ultraviolet (UV) light and electrical discharges within the Earth’s atmosphere. Ground-level ozone is formed when oxides of nitrogen (NOx) react with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of sunlight. NOx emissions are generated from motor vehicles and combustion of fuels. VOC are generated by natural source and industrial processes. When inhaled, ozone can cause respiratory health effects such as asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis, especially in vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly.
In October 2015, EPA lowered the level of the ozone NAAQS from 0.075 parts per million (ppm) to 0.070 ppm. In August 2018, EPA designated seven counties in Atlanta (Bartow, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnnett, and Henry) as nonattainment for the 2015 ozone NAAQS with a deadline to attain by August 3, 2021. On September 15, 2022, EPA announced the final determination that the Atlanta Nonattainment Area had met the 2015 ozone NAAQS based on certified air quality monitoring data for the years 2018-2020. The present redesignation and approval of Georgia’s maintenance plan for continued attainment of the 2015 ozone NAAQS is the final step in the process.
Georgia is designated attainment for all other health-based standards (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and lead), making this the first time Georgia has been designated attainment for all pollutants in all counties of the state.