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Protecting Waukesha County's Natural Resourses since 1978



Clean Air

Southeastern Wisconsin has a serious air pollution problem. Air pollution causes human health problems, harm to the environment, damage to agricultural products and even harm to buildings and manufactured goods. High concentrations of ozone causes significant irritation to the elderly, children and people with breathing problems. The effects of long term exposure to low concentrations of toxic pollutants are currently uncertain but are suspected to cause long term health problems. Due to the mobile nature of air pollution, the pollutants generated by residents of one area can cause problems for people long distances away.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) has reported that motor vehicles contribute 43% of the pollutants that form ground level ozone in Southeastern Wisconsin. Area sources such as small engines, lawn mowers, boat motors and other consumer products contribute approximately 42%. Large industrial sources, which have implemented many reduction methods, contribute 15%. The DOT has reported that 50% of the pollution generated by motor vehicles is produced by approximately 10% of the motor vehicles. Small engines and boat motors currently do not have any emission controls, and as a result are much "dirtier" than automobiles.

The Clean Air Act, as amended in 1990, has compelled the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set limits on the amount of emissions that can be generated in metropolitan areas. Eleven counties in Southeastern Wisconsin and along Lake Michigan have been designated as nonattainment areas. To provide for future economic growth in the region, significant reductions in motor vehicle and area sources must be implemented.

The Waukesha County Environmental Action League (WEAL) supports the following programs and policies to help clean the air:

Motor Vehicles Sources:

  1. Removal of the worst motor vehicle contributors through increased waiver cost limits or a State purchase plan for vehicles failing Emissions' Inspection.
  2. Spot checking of vehicles to insure continued compliance with emission controls.
  3. Reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled through mass transit, walking and bicycling.
  4. Encouragement of programs to increase the occupancy rate of vehicles.
  5. Incentives to private citizens to acquire/convert to vehicles powered by electricity and other alternative fuels.
  6. Increase the average fuel economy of new motor vehicles, and restructure the formula to include all vehicles including light trucks.
  7. Encourage programs to allow employees to telecommute.

Area Sources:

  1. Require new small engines and boat motors to have emission controls using the same standards implemented in California.
  2. Encourage the use of human powered lawn mowers
  3. Encourage the planting of native vegetation, such as prairie and woodland species, in place of mowed lawns.
  4. Require all gasoline pumps and gasoline delivery trucks to have vapor recovery systems.
  5. Provide governmental assistance for small business to reduce emissions and install recovery/abatement systems.
  6. Promote programs to conserve energy and utilize renewable types of energy through strict building codes, utility rebate programs and tax incentives.

Industrial Sources:

  1. Promote conservation of electricity to reduce emissions from power plants.
  2. Reduce or eliminate the need for CFCs, HCFCs and other chemicals in industrial products/processes to protect the "good" ozone layer.
  3. Promote energy conservation of all types.

We all contribute to the state's air pollution problems in a variety of ways. Through a variety of small individual efforts, citizens of Wisconsin can go a long way to cleaning up the air pollution problem.


"Wisconsin Vehicle Inspection Program", Wisconsin Department of Transportation, "The Clean Air Act in Wisconsin", Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Pub No. AM07392. Contact: Bureau of Air Management, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, P0 Box 7921AM/10, Madison, WI 53707-7921 (608) 266 7718.

written 12/92 MYB

revised 12/95 MYB