Carolina Public Press: Taking a look at WNC’s local air-quality agency

Contributor Hank Shell takes a closer look at one of the state’s few locally based air-quality agencies:

From power plants to paper mills, quarries to crematoriums – every year companies across North Carolina pump millions of pounds of chemicals and particulates into the atmosphere.

And no matter where you are in North Carolina, one thing remains constant – you’ve got to pay to pollute.

Most air polluters in the state pay for their emissions with permits, and sometimes fines, from the North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Division of Air Quality….

In Buncombe County, the Western North Carolina Regional Air Quality Agency monitors air quality and enforces state and federal air quality standards. The other two local regulating agencies in North Carolina are in Mecklenburg and Forsyth counties.

Ashley Featherstone, engineering supervisor for WNCRAQA, said the Buncombe County agency actually predates the state Division of Air Quality and federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The WNCRAQA was started as a smoke abatement agency in the 1940s to regulate smoke from coal-fired boilers in the area, Featherstone said. At that time, four counties were involved in the agency — Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Transylvania. …


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