Emory Report

April 13, 1998

 Volume 50, No. 28

Emory voluntarily takes lead
in cutting ozone pollution
with 'Hazy Days' program

One look at any of Atlanta's interstates during rush hour and it should come as no surprise that the city has an air pollution problem. But this summer Emory will join dozens of other state and private organizations in helping reduce the haze created by all those gasoline engines.

Following Gov. Zell Miller's executive order last year mandating that all state agencies participate in an ozone-reduction plan during the "ozone season" from May 1 to Sept. 30, the University signed onto the Voluntary Ozone Action Program (VOAP), coordinated by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD).

Atlanta's 13-county metro area has been classified as a "serious" nonattainment area under the federal Clean Air Act for its high levels of ground-level, or tropospheric, ozone. Tropospheric ozone is produced by a combination of weather conditions, the combustion of various fuels and other airborne volatile organic compounds, and it differs from stratospheric ozone, which protects the earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation. Ground-level ozone can cause a variety of health problems as well as aggravate respiratory conditions such as emphysema, bronchitis and asthma.

Some 90 state agencies, along with another 25 federal offices, are required to participate in VOAP. Emory is one of the handful of private firms and organizations that have volunteered. The University's initiative, named "Hazy Days," is a three-pronged attack on harmful emissions. Community Services will continue to stress its commuter options program in order to reduce the number of cars making the daily trek to and from campus; Facilities Management Division has been and will continue to implement a number of environmentally friendly initiatives; and Human Resources will emphasize flexible hours and telecommuting as options for employees during the summer months.

"We must participate as vigorously as we can to making our area clean and healthful," said President Bill Chace. "I am committed to such activities and to the philosophy underlying them."

One of the most noticeable aspects of Hazy Days will be the forecasting of Ozone Action Days. A day or two before predicted weather conditions indicate an ozone nonattainment day, Georgia EPD will declare an action day. The goal for the University on such days is to reduce the number of cars on campus by 20 percent; Community Services and FMD will put red pennants on parking deck exit arms and signs in decks and buildings, while HR will send out advisory e-mails and faxes alerting the campus to the approaching action day.

Employees are urged to find alternative methods of transportation on action days, and that's where the commuter option program comes in. Emory offers a range of possibilities that continues to serve as a model in Atlanta. The program won an award from the Atlanta Regional Commission last year as an outstanding commuter program for large companies. Through its combination of carpool, vanpool and MARTA pass programs, Community Services has been able to keep literally hundreds of vehicles off campus.

"You've got a gem right there," said Jeane Pierce, VOAP coordinator for Georgia EPD, of Emory's commuter options program. "It's absolutely wonderful. It's always used as a model program in the region."

According to Cheryle Crumley, director of alternative transportation, last year Atlanta had only 11 nonattainment days, and half of those were on weekends. Crumley expects a similar number of action days during the workweek-about a half-dozen-this year.

FMD has been implementing environmentally friendly programs for years now, and Hazy Days has only hastened the department's activities. For instance, though they may seem less harmful because of their size, the two-cycle engines of most lawnmowers emit as much ozone in an hour of use as a car driven for 635 miles. Robin Smith, building commissioning coordinator, said the division is replacing two-cycle engine lawnmowers with four-cycle engines, which burn cleaner. FMD is also looking into purchasing, as it becomes available, equipment that is virtually emission-free.

Other FMD initiatives include cleaner burners in the steam plant's boilers; replacing gasoline-powered vehicles with electric ones; requesting offices to keep thermostats set at certain temperatures; delaying refueling of vehicles until after 6 p.m.; and encouraging vanpool use among FMD employees. Already 10 percent of maintenance and custodial staff are working second and third shift to cut down on daytime vehicle emissions.

Work schedules are also the topic for Human Resources. Alice Miller, vice president for HR, urged participants at a recent HR representatives meeting to seek out flexible scheduling and telecommuting options with employees for whom such options are feasible. The University got the word out on telecommuting and flexible hours during the 1996 Summer Olympics, and Miller urged employees to adopt a similar frame of mind for Ozone Season.

"We've always encouraged flexible scheduling," said Julianne McCarty, HR communications specialist, "but it is on a departmental basis. We know some departments have employees who can use flexible scheduling and some whose employees can't, just by the nature of their positions."

For more information on any aspect of Hazy Days, visit the program's web site at <www.emory.edu/HR/VOAP/hazydays.html>.

-Michael Terrazas

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