New Waveland Station To Monitor Air Quality

You can't always see it, but DEQ officials say it's there - pollution of all kinds floating in the air.

"The Mississippi Gulf Coast is one of the worst areas in the state for ozone, as well as Desoto County near Memphis," the DEQ's Chief Air Quality Monitor Jerry Beasley said.

Ozone is caused by emissions from auto exhaust, industrial plants and dust particles.

"Ozone is good in the upper stratosphere because it shields us from ultra violet radiation, but it's not so good on the ground because it can cause respiratory problems in people."

Beasley's co-worker, Becky Comyns, echoed his words.

"Ozone has been linked to a lot of increase in asthma, especially with children."

That's one reason the DEQ saw a need to set up a new air quality monitoring site in Waveland. The collection devices are located on top of a small building. Inside, equipment records the data.

"These machines inside the building run continually. 24 hours, 7 days a week. So data is transferred to our Jackson office every day," Comyns said.

She says the information is vital to the coast's economy.

"If your ozone is too high, it can actually restrict economic development. You wouldn't be able to have new industries come into the area that are going to emit anything that's going to contribute to the ozone. So this is all very important to determine what the levels are."

And although the coast has higher pollution levels than most other areas of the state, the DEQ says our area still falls within the Environmental Protection Agency's acceptable levels.

"They have an air quality index that goes from zero to fifty. They call that good. Fifty to 100 is called moderate. One hundred to 150 is unhealthy to sensitive groups," Beasley said.

He says right now the coast ranks in the middle. The hope is that monitoring sites like this one will help improve the air we breathe.

The DEQ says the new monitoring station is also equipped to determine where the air pollution is coming from.

The DEQ also provides a daily air quality forecast for residents. You can get it by logging onto the agency's web site at

by Al Showers