The time has come for Lincoln Countyâ€™s government, business and community leaders to tackle a worsening problem of air quality that threatens our economy as well as our health and well-being.
We think of ourselves as having a high quality of life, well removed from the urban smells and noises of Charlotte. We donâ€™t even have to worry about the traffic congestion and crowded service counters of our neighbors in Hickory and Gastonia. But the fact is we share a problem with these larger cities in the quality of our air. In fact, Lincoln County has the third worst air quality in North Carolina, exceeded only by Mecklenburg and Rowan, as pointed out in last Mondayâ€™s Square Talk column by Sylvia Wallace of the Lincoln Natural Resources Committee.
In April, Lincoln was designated a non-attainment area for reaching federal standards of air quality, along with a handful of other counties in the region, raising concerns about the possible loss of millions in federal transportation money and having to apply new, costly restrictions on industries.
About 67 percent of harmful air emissions in our region come from â€œpoint sources,â€ such as power plants and smokestacks, according to officials with the Centralina Council of Governments. Mobile sources such as cars, trucks and even lawn mowers account for the second and most growing cause of emissions. Thatâ€™s especially true in Lincoln County, where about 51 percent of residents drive to jobs outside the county each day.
With a more creative approach to travel requirements, all of that automobile time could be reduced.
The Lincoln County Economic Development Association plans to encourage the development of office parks and telecommuting centers in eastern Lincoln County so employees donâ€™t have to drive to Charlotte. Certainly the new bus service to Charlotte from eastern Lincoln County will help reduce the number of cars smoking up the region. Businesses should consider conference calls instead of meetings when a lot of travel is required
Leaders in our community can do even more with a little creative thinking, much like we did when recycling first caught on. Centralina Council of Governments has a wealth of ideas on the subject. A community can try to accommodate more bicycling commuters. Schools can start adopt-a-school bus program that applies more pollution controls. Industry can develop more air friendly fleet maintenance program
An effort known as SEQL, or Sustainable Environment for Quality of Life, lists a number of business solutions to air quality issues. To find out how your business can help, go to www.seql.org.
Meanwhile, local governments, business and civic organizations need to form a partnership to deal with this very serious problem.