New air quality control steps could shut down traffic

Taipei--The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has updated its air quality control steps that could lead to traffic shutdowns when air pollution in Taiwan reaches an extremely hazardous level.

The revised "Emergency Steps to Prevent Air Quality from Deteriorating" were published Tuesday and will take effect Friday, according to the administration.

It was the first time the air quality measures have been updated in 17 years, and they will now include particularly hazardous PM2.5 particulates in the air quality warning system.

The agency is hoping the updated measures, which are designed to give early warnings of pollution problems, will help improve air quality by getting polluting factories to lower their operating loads or keep polluting vehicles off the streets.

Under the revised air quality control steps, air pollution alerts are divided into two categories -- "early warning" and "serious deterioration."

The early warning category consists of "second-degree" and "first-degree" early warnings.

The EPA will issue a second-degree early warning when average PM2.5 concentrations over a 24-hour period reach 35.5 micrograms per cubic meter and a first-degree early warning when PM2.5 concentrations reach 54.5 ug/m3.

Under second-degree early warnings, factories will be advised to lower their operating loads, and burning objects outdoors or allowing a vehicle engine to idle while the vehicle is parked will be prohibited.

When a first-degree early warning is issued, roads will be watered, reward points for taking public transportation will be increased, and checks of two-stroke motorcycles and pollution control equipment used by big restaurants will be stepped up.

Under the category of serious deterioration, there are three degrees of early warning, starting with "third-degree."

The EPA will issue a "third-degree" serious deterioration warning when average PM2.5 concentrations hit 150.5 ug/m3, a "second-degree" warning when average PM2.5 concentrations hit 250.5 ug/m3, and a "first-degree" warning when average PM2.5 concentrations hit 350.5 ug/m3.

Under third- and second-degree warnings, factories will be required to must run at lower capacity to limit air pollutants, and the use of two-stroke motorcycles and diesel trucks will be restricted or banned.

Outdoor construction or paving roads will also be prohibited under these conditions.

If a first-degree serious deterioration warning is issued, all vehicles, except for electric cars and vehicles produced after Jan. 1, 2012, will be barred from the roads, according to the EPA.

According to EPA data, 24-hour average PM2.5 concentrations have never exceeded 250 ug/m3 in Taiwan. The historical high was recorded in the Matsu Islands off the coast of China on Dec. 7, 2013 at 233 ug/m3.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel