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What is an Ozone Alert?

What is an ozone alert or air quality alert? What should you do when one is issued? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions.

What is an ozone alert, air quality alert, smog, air pollution

For the last couple of days Oklahoma City and Tulsa have been under ozone alerts, but what does that mean? Well, you may have heard it also called an air pollution alert. It means, there is an unhealthy concentration of ozone pollution.

Ozone is a colorless gas that naturally exists in the earth’s upper atmosphere and protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. However, when ozone is found near the earth’s surface it’s called ground-level ozone and it’s a harmful air pollutant. You may also know ozone as “smog”. While the term “smog” originally describe the combination of fog and smoke, today what we call “smog” is largely ground-level ozone.

Ground-level ozone is a human health threat. Everyone is vulnerable to ozone but children, the elderly, people who work outside, and people with respiratory conditions are at a particularly high risk. Ozone can cause lung problems and eye irritation. During an alert it is best to avoid outside activity, especially if you are in the high risk group.

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality forecasts ozone alert days using a number of factors that includes temperature, cloud cover, build-up of emissions in the air, wind speed and direction, temperature, and other factors. Around Oklahoma, we tend to see ozone alerts May through September. Ozone alerts are more common on hot days.

How You Can Help on Ozone Alert Days

Ground-level ozone is hard to control because a lot of the problem is caused by weather. However, ground-level ozone forms when the weather is right and there are other pollutants. Many of these pollutants we can help control, here is how you can help.

  • Combine trips when driving, avoid driving when you can, use public transportation, or carpool.
  • Refuel vehicles, lawn equipment, and gas cans carefully and avoid spilling. It’s also best to refuel in the evening when the air is cooler and ozone is less likely to form.
  • Avoid idling our vehicle. Idling emits more pollutants than restarting a warm motor.
  • Avoid mowing your lawn during ozone alerts and try to mow in the evening. Lawn mowers create more pollution than cars! You can also help by using greener lawn equipment, like battery powered mowers.

These small things can make a big difference! You can find out if you are under an ozone alert by checking AirNow and often local news. Stay safe and aware this summer!

What do you do to help on ozone alert days? Share your tips in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook.

What is an ozone alert, air quality alert, smog, air pollution


What is Blue Green Algae?

Blue green algae is often found in lakes around Oklahoma during the summer. What is blue green algae and what do you need to do when it’s found?

Blue green algae, what it is and why you need to avoid it

The Grand River Dam Authority has reported that the Fly Creek area of Grand Lake has high levels of blue-green algae.

When the GRDA first reported the high levels on Friday, June 16, BGA densities were at more than  100,000 cells per milliliter with more than 20 micrograms per liter of microcystins is considered toxic.

There is currently a public advisory to avoid bodily contact with the water in the Fly Creek area of Grand Lake. Testing will continue daily as long as conditions warrant.

You can find the condition of other lakes around Oklahoma by visiting the Travel OK lake condition page. And if you see algae play it safe and avoid the area.

What is Blue Green Algae?

Blue Green Algae in Oklahoma

Photo property of the Tulsa District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Blue-green algae consists of tiny bacterial organisms. It can be found in all types of water including lakes, streams and pounds. Usually it’s found in low numbers but things like warm, stagnant water, heavy sunlight, and phosphorous or nitrogen can cause it to become abundant. Phosphorous and nitrogen can end up in the water from fertilizer and some household products.

Why is it Dangerous?

Some blue-green algae produces neurotoxins or hepatotoxins (live toxins), as well as toxins that can be harmful to the skins and gastrointestinal tract.

Exposure to these toxins can cause upper respiratory problems, vomiting and diarrhea, eye irritation, and a number of other health concerns. These toxins also can impact animals.

What to do if Blue Green Algae is Found?

  • Don’t drink untreated water.
  • Don’t swim, water ski, wade, or boat in areas where the water is discolored or where you see foam, scum, or mats of algae on the water.
  • If you swim or wade in water that may have blue green algae present, rinse off with fresh water and soap. This is also an effective method of reducing exposure for pets.
  • Don’t let pets or livestock swim or drink where water is discolored or where you see foam, scum, or mats of algae on the water.
  • Respect all water and beach closures.

You are also asked to please report any potential algae blooms to the local project office or the Oklahoma Dept. of Environmental Quality at 1-800-522-0206.

If you or a pet experiences nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, eye irritation, skin rays, respiratory symptoms or other unexplained illness, call your doctor or veterinarian.

For more information on blue green algae, visit Travel OK Lake Conditions



Bloomberg, Sierra Club Partnership Aims to Close Half of U.S. Coal Plants by 2017

Photo Credit- Matthew D. Wilson (LtPowers)

Photo Credit- Matthew D. Wilson (LtPowers)

The Sierra Club announced this week that Bloomberg Philanthropies will be investing $30 million over three years to the Beyond Coal Campaign. This new round of funding builds on the foundation’s previous commitment of $50 million.

Bloomberg will also lead a coalition of funders, which aims to match up to $30 million in grants. With this new support, the Sierra Club hopes to see the replacement of half of the nation’s coal power plants with clean energy by 2017.

“The coalition of more than a dozen funders includes individual donors, family foundations and major philanthropic organizations recognizing the urgency to fight climate change. Select funders include the Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Yellow Chair Foundation, the Grantham Foundation and the Sandler Family Foundation.  Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune and Michael R. Bloomberg announced the investments at the Sierra Club in Washington DC.” –source

The Bloomberg Philanthropies-Sierra Club partnership has led to 187 coal plants being retired or announcing their retirement. Coal has also dropped from 52% of US electricity generation to under 40%.

“The single biggest reduction in carbon pollution in the U.S. has come by retiring and repurposing coal-fired power plants – and that’s the direct result of our Beyond Coal campaign,” said Michael R. Bloomberg. “Thanks to the community leaders who have spearheaded this work, the U.S. led every industrialized nation in reducing carbon emissions last year. But much more work remains, and today we are doubling down on what has proven to be an incredibly successful strategy for improving public health and fighting climate change.” –source

One of the goals of the campaign is to improve the health of Americans.

The health benefits of our work to date include preventing 5,000 premature deaths,  avoiding 82,600 asthma attacks, and saving $2.3 billion in health care costs – every year. Retiring even one coal plant can  prevent 29 premature deaths, 47 heart attacks and 146 asthma attacks annually. Peer-reviewed research has also shown families living next to mountaintop-removal coal mines have higher risks of cancer, birth defects, and premature death. Replacing half the nation’s coal plants with clean energy will bring real improvements to people’s lives.” –source

The campaign also aims to position the U.S. as a climate leader. Current reductions in coal and increase use of renewable energy has helped the U.S. reach a climate agreement with China. However, the Sierra Club is hoping for even more.

“…the science is clear that we must do more, and the goals announced today by the Sierra Club will put the nation on a path to exceed the U.S. climate targets announced in late March by the Obama Administration.” –source

The coal industry is clearly not a big fan of this effort by the Sierra Club and Bloomberg.

“Instead of trying to make headlines, environmentalists could be partnering with industry to make headway in providing cleaner, reliable energy to Americans across the country and around the world,” said Laura Sheehan, senior vice president for communications at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which represents coal interests, in a statement.”- source

However, the Sierra Club and Bloomberg say the partnership is helping transition the economy from coal to clean energy. Bloomberg has pointed out the increase in number of jobs in solar and other renewable energy.

“Saying we’re destroying the coal industry isn’t as true as people would want you to believe, said Bloomberg. We should be making investments in helping find jobs and careers in industries that will continue growing,” – source

You can find out more at the Bloomberg Beyond Coal and Beyond Coal websites.

Oklahoma City and Tulsa Two of the Worst Cities for Asthma

Oklahoma City SkylineEach year the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America looks at the largest 100 cities in America and their impact on asthma. The cities are ranked based on 12 contributing factors to asthma symptoms. The factors are asthma prevalence, death rate, air pollution, annual air quality, pollen counts, medication usage, poverty rates, public smoking laws, inhaler access in schools, uninsured rate, emergency room visits, and number of specialists.

Oklahoma City and Tulsa did not do well in the ranking. Tulsa did improve from their 2012 rank of 11 but are still on the top 15 list at 15. Oklahoma City ranks worse in the latest report than it did in 2012. In 2012, Oklahoma City ranked 8th but now ranks 5th.

That’s not the only bad news for lungs in Oklahoma, Oklahoma City  and Tulsa also receive F ratings from the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2013 report.

And even more bad news comes from the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2013 report. Tulsa and Oklahoma city both made the list of worse cities for ozone. Oklahoma city ranked #20, while Tulsa came in at #25.

Oklahoma has a lot of work to do to improve our air quality over the next  several years. These are not the top lists we want to stay on.

Do you suffer from asthma? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.  

Photo credit- Daniel Mayer

Hundreds of Gallons of Oil Spill in Oklahoma

An oil spill was discovered around the area of Cardinal Cove, not far from Lake Texoma early last week. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) estimates that about 10 barrels, or 400 gallons, were spilled. It was the result of a small hole in a 2-inch pipe coming from an oil well.

The company responsible for the spill is Wichita-based Berexco LLC and they retain an oil spill response organization to clean up the spill. As of a few days ago it was estimated that over 95% has been recovered but the goal is to recover all of the oil.

Unfortunately a small amount of the oil has made it into the waters of Lake Texoma and booms have been placed to contain the spill. At the moment no injuries or deaths to wildlife have been observed resulting from the spill but the threat to wildlife is always a concern with an oil spill.

As of a couple of days ago the cleanup was ongoing. There is no estimate on how long the cleanup will take but the crew will work until the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the OCC are satisfied that the spill is properly cleaned up.

Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit-  davidjlee


OG&E Being Sued by EPA Over Clean Air Act Violations

The Federal Government filed a lawsuit against Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E) on Monday, accusing OG&E of violating the Clean Air Act. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says OG&E failed to properly estimate emission increases before they started upgrade projects at two of its coal power plants, the Sooner Plant in Red Rock and Muskogee plant in Fort Gibson.

Last month the Oklahoma Sierra Club released a report showing that the two OG&E plants were producing enough toxic sulfur dioxide pollution to violate state and federal health standards. Today in a press release the Oklahoma Sierra Club praises the lawsuit.

“We are glad that the Justice Department has stepped up to enforce clean air protections here in Oklahoma,” said Whitney Pearson an Organizer with Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “There is no longer any excuse for OG&E to hide from their responsibility. It’s time they retire their old, dirty coal plants and begin investing in smart twenty first century energy solutions. Wind power has already created thousands of jobs right here in Oklahoma and there’s plenty more where that came from. We should stop importing coal from Wyoming mines 1,000 miles away and instead invest in Oklahoma’s future.”- read more

OG&E denies the allegations in the lawsuit. OG&E spokesman Brian Alford told StateImpact,

“Actual monitored data indicates that emissions did not increase as a result of the work performed.” – read more

The Oklahoma Sierra Club said it is saddened by the fact that OG&E didn’t put the pollution controls on when they were supposed to.

“… Oklahomans would be breathing cleaner air and seeing less days when state regulators are warning residents it is unsafe to breathe,” said Whitney Pearson. –read more

OG&E is preparing a formal response, which Green Oklahoma will be sure to share when it is available.

Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page

Photo Credit- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


Toxic Sulfur Dioxide Plumes in Oklahoma

pollutionOn Thursday, the Sierra Club released a report demonstrating how OG&E’s Muskogee and Sooner coal-fired power plants are producing enough toxic sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution to violate state and federal health standards. In addition to the report, the Sierra Club has released maps showing where the pollution from the two plants is going.

Sulfur dioxide exposure can be harmful in a very short period of time. It’s especially dangerous for people living with asthma. In Muskogee County, where one of the plants is located, there are nearly 7,000 people with asthma.

“Even five minutes of exposure to high sulfur dioxide levels can be harmful, and can result in injury that can be compared to a sunburn on your lungs” said Whitney Pearson, organizer with Sierra Club. “It’s now clear that OG&E’s Muskogee and Sooner coal plants are violating air standards that protect our health. We have abundant, affordable wind energy resources in Oklahoma, yet OG&E is stuck on polluting plants that fueled by dirty out-of-state coal. It’s well past time for OG&E to clean up its coal-fired power plants.”- read more

Coal burning plants are the largest source of sulfur dioxide pollution in the nation and the Muskogee and Sooner plants are largest coal plants in Oklahoma. These plants still lack modern pollution safeguards called “scrubbers.” Scrubbers can help control pollution, including sulfur dioxide, though they can’t eliminate all pollution from the plants.

In the plume maps released by the Sierra Club were produced by experts and show that the sulfur dioxide levels at the plants are exceeding the safe levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency. This poses significant health risks to the residents. Elderly, children and people with asthma are the most vulnerable.

“It’s concerning for people to look at these maps and see their home, school, or workplace in an area with high levels of pollution that could be responsible for their child’s asthma attacks,” said Sylvia Swan, Muskogee resident. “More than three thousand people in Muskogee suffer from asthma. We can install locks on our doors to protect ourselves from burglary, but there’s nothing we can do to protect ourselves from OG&E’s pollution. It’s the responsibility of the state and federal agencies to protect us, and it should be the responsibility of OG&E to produce electricity without harming us. It’s time to clean up the Muskogee plant now, that’s why I’ve gotten involved in the effort to educate my community about this important issue.” –read more

The Sierra Club is asking Oklahomans to tell OG&E to clean up and phase out the Muskogee and Sooner coal plants. You can learn more and send your message at Beyond Coal Oklahoma.

Photo Credit- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Fish Contaminated with High Levels of Mercury Found in Oklahoma

We can end up consuming too much mercury when eating fish contaminated with it. We need to be aware of what bodies of water have mercury issues, that way we know which fish are safe to consume and how much. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) found 32 of Oklahoma’s lakes contain fish with high levels of mercury. This includes the following lakes;



  •  Atoka Lake
  • Boomer Lake
  • Broken Bow Reservoir
  • Canton Lake
  • Carlton Lake
  • Cedar Lake
  • Clayton Lake
  • Coalgate City Lake
  • Draper Lake
  • Dripping Springs Lake
  • Elmer Thomas Lake
  • Ft. Supply Reservoir
  • Hugo Lake
  • Kaw Reservoir
  • Lake Carl Albert
  • Lake Carl Blackwell
  • Lake Eufaula
  • Lake Heyburn
  • Lake Nanih Waiya
  • Lake Ozzie Cobb
  • Lake Talawanda #2
  • Lake Wayne Wallace
  • Lloyd Church Lake
  • McAlester City Lake
  • McGee Creek Reservoir
  • Pine Creek Reservoir
  • Quanah Parker Lake
  • Rush Lake
  • Sardis Lake
  • Schooler Lake
  • Skiatook Lake
  • Wister Lake

In the ODEQ’s newly released 2013 Mercury in Fish booklet you can find information on what fish is safe to consume regularly and which aren’t. General guidelines are to eat smaller, younger fish and don’t eat fish that feed on other fish.

For the fish with advisories, it’s recommended that you not consume them for more than two meals a month or the ones with really high levels it’s recommended you don’t consume them at all. If you enjoy fishing in Oklahoma be sure to read the 2013 Mercury in Fish booklet to help you and your family stay safe.

Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit:  Some rights reserved by jeshua.nace

Oil-Spills into Lake Keystone

About 4,800 gallons of crude oil spilled into Lake Keystone after a tanker truck overturned on a rocky embankment Saturday morning. The tanker was driving over the Keystone Lake land bridge, U.S. Highway 412. The tanker was clipped by a car that was driving with a flat tire.

Clean up has continued today. However, the winds today have made clean up more difficult. And the oil has been spreading into Bear’s Glen Cove, though most of the oil has been contained in floating barriers.

The oil sheen is estimated to be about 15 by 1,000 feet. Both the Department of Wildlife Conservation and the state Department of Environmental Quality are both monitoring the situation. Workers will be monitoring the spill for a couple of weeks. So far there have been no reports of fish kills.

Thankfully, no public drinking water is taken from the lake. And clean up experts said they don’t expect the spill to have much of an impact on the wildlife. And the spill shouldn’t pose any risks to any people. The Keystone Dam’s power generation hasn’t been hinder either.

The video below from NewsOn6.com shows the spill on Saturday.
NewsOn6.com – Tulsa, OK – News, Weather, Video and Sports – KOTV.com |



The New Cement Standard’s Impact on Oklahoma

adacementLast month the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally issued new air pollution standards for cement kilns and industrial boilers. This seemed like good news but the rules were weakened, leaving many asking if they are enough. With three cement plants in Oklahoma, this is an issue that will impact the lives of many Oklahomans. The plants are in Ada, Tulsa, and Pryor. Both the Ada plant and the Pryor plant are High Priority Violators of the Clean Air Act.

The EPA says the rules will,

“…achieve extensive public health protections by slashing toxic air pollution, including mercury and particle pollution, while at the same addressing feedback provided by industry and labor groups, increasing the rule’s flexibility and dramatically reducing costs.”

However, the new standards are being delayed two or three years for cement plants. The EPA is also finalizing the definition of solid waste, this will allow cement pants to burn tires, railroad ties, and plastic bottles.

With asthma in Oklahoma already above the national rates, with an estimated 241,011 adults and 88,825 children living with asthma, these new rules will help but are they going to be enough? According to the EPA’s estimates, not having more regulations could cost up to 2,500 lives and more suffering for people living with asthma.

The American Lung Association is also concerned, talking about their disappointment in a press release,

“We are most disappointed by the new EPA standard to limit hazardous air pollution from cement plants. EPA had originally set strong standards to limit the second largest source of toxic mercury emissions in the country. Industry pressure resulted in weaker standards and delayed implementation. Public health will continue to suffer unnecessarily because of pollution from cement plants. The American Lung Association will continue to urge EPA to uphold its responsibility as required by the Clean Air Act and clean up air pollution from all sources and protect public health.”

With many Oklahoman’s lives at risk, you have to ask why we aren’t doing more to clean our air. Jobs are important but can we really put a price on clean air and human lives?

What do you think about the new rules, do you feel they are strong enough or not? Please share in the comments below or on our Facebook page.