hmmm.... the messy yard laws are part of the cause of the air pollution problem.

Vacant lots, especially when they have disked the surface to take weeds down; that creates a lot of dust when the wind blows.

Arizona newsmaker

Feb. 5, 2006 12:00 AM

Robert Kard, director of the Maricopa County Air Quality Department, oversees efforts of the county to work with industries, businesses and individuals to minimize pollution. Particulate pollution in the Valley has been a big problem this season. Abetted by stalled weather systems and a lack of rain to cleanse the air, the Valley has had a record number of pollution alerts during the past four months.

1. What are the main causes of the pollution we're seeing?

It starts with automobiles and the many thousands of people who commute each day. And it's not just exhaust. It's also the dirt on the roads that kicks up as cars pass over; and with the continuing dry conditions, it gets worse and worse.

2. Many people believe leaf blowers are a major cause of pollution. Is that true?

People say to me they know we enforce air-pollution regulations on wood burning and on dust violations by contractors . . . so why aren't you doing something about leaf blowers. In fact, leaf blowers don't significantly contribute to the big picture of pollution. That said, in the small area where they are used, they can make the air very unhealthy to breathe. Cities and towns need to consider restrictions on leaf blowers.

3. What else contributes to the pollution?

Vacant lots, especially when they have disked the surface to take weeds down; that creates a lot of dust when the wind blows. Last week, I was visiting a school next to a large vacant lot, and the wind was blowingand that school was just covered in dust. We have enforcement when people use vehicles on these lots, but it's hard to catch them.

4. Are weekends better regarding pollution because there is less commuting?

Better, but not great. We live in a basin, and it's like we've put a lot of dirt into the bathwater and it's remaining dirty. Also, on weekends, we see more off-road vehicle activity in washes around the Valley, and that's really bad. The dust blows up from the washes and into the city.

- William Hermann

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