3 Air Audit Misconceptions and How to Take Charge of Your Emissions

Posted by on Monday, March 4th, 2019 in Blog

Air audits, or examinations of the air quality in either indoor or outdoor areas, are necessary in many industries and many situations, from the building of new structures to the modification of existing structures to the exploration of the air quality inside buildings. While necessary to ensure that applicable federal and local regulations (such as those established in the Clean Air Act) are followed and that pollution is kept to safe levels, they are also prone to misconceptions. 

Pollution Misconceptions

These misconceptions can make it less likely that businesses will go through with necessary air audits, and can even lead to violations of regulations and related fines and black marks on their environmental and compliance records. What follows is a look at three air audit misconceptions and two ways to take charge of your emissions. 

Air Audit Misconception 1: Pollution is obvious because of appearance or location. 

One of the goals of an air audits is to identify areas of high-level pollution, or to identify projects that are emitting pollutants that are in excess of safe levels and federal or state regulations. For example, an industrial plant may conduct anair auditin order to ensure that a new emissions stack is releasing pollutants below levels required by the Clean Air Act. 

What some businesses, and individuals, believe, however, is that these audits are unnecessary because pollution is obvious. For example, they may believe that pollution looks like the stereotypical dark, smoggy air hanging over cities. Or, they may believe that location determines air pollution. For example, they believe that open, natural areas, indoor areas, or rural areas are free from excessive pollution. 

See also: How You Know You Might Need an Environmental Consulting Firm

The reality, however, is that pollution is not always visible (i.e. gases, or tiny biological components can be invisible to the naked eye). Even particulate matter can be so tiny (less than 2.5 microns in diameter) that they are invisible. However, this type of pollution still poses serious health risks and can violate regulations regarding pollution levels.

In addition, indoor areas can be 2-5x more polluted than outdoor areas. Even some state parks have suffered from ozone levels nearing those of major cities. Since pollution is not always visible, and cannot be determined based simply on location, it is critical for businesses to conduct air audits to confirm the levels of pollution they are creating and to identify areas where they need to improve.  

Microscopic Pollution

Air Audit Misconception 2: Permits are unnecessary for my business or project. 

One of the major uses of air audits is to obtain permitting for certain projects. These permits are required under Title V of the Clean Air Act Amendments, as well as under relevant state and local laws. Permits may be required for the actual construction of a project, in order to prove that the construction will not violate emissions regulations. They may also be required for certain businesses that emit certain types of pollution (such as carbon dioxide) to operate. In this case, the permits show that the business has proved that its emissions comply with all relevant regulations. 

Unfortunately, the permitting process can be confusing, and many businesses believe that they do not need to earn certain permits. Or, they may simply choose to move ahead without the permits because they underestimate the impact of failing to conduct the proper air audits. For example, in Texas, permits for drilling projects are required from both the Railroad Commission of Texas and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, but many businesses only pursue the first permit and not the second because they are not aware that both permits are required before drilling begins. 

Air Audit Misconception 3: Failing to conduct proper air audits is a minor offense.

Finally, many businesses that know they need to conduct air audits believe that not doing so does not carry steep consequences. As a result, they may choose not to move forward with air auditsthey believe are inconvenient, expensive, or unnecessary. 

The reality, however, is that the consequences of failing to follow proper permitting requirements, including air audits, can be steep. Not only can businesses receive hefty fines, but they can face permanent black marks on their records that can interfere with mergers and acquisitions and place them under extra monitoring and scrutiny. Air audits, and the permitting they allow, are not optional, but necessary, for many businesses. 

Take charge of your emissions with air audits and environmental consultation. 

Since air audits are important for monitoring pollution and emissions levels, and since they are required for proper permitting, what is the best way to take charge of your emissions? The obvious solution is to conduct all necessary air auditsfor your business with the appropriate air dispersion modeling software. These audits, and the software necessary for them, are available through businesses like Providence-Oris, who can help you identify and utilize the best programs for your business. 

Shaking hands

In addition, you may need the assistance of an environmental consulting firm. For example, does your business fall under the Clean Air Act’s Title V requirements? Do you need multiple permits and, if so, which ones? Which types of air quality modeling do you need?

The answers to these questions, as well as sorting out which permits to seek, which air auditsto conduct, and which softwares to use, can be confusing. Avoiding accidental violations of regulations and remaining in compliance with your air audits may mean using an environmental consultant’s expertise to guide your decisions. 

When you can receive the right guidance for your business and conduct the air audits necessary, you can set your business up for a more successful, and compliant, approach to environmental regulations. If you need help handling air audits or any aspect of environmental compliance, do not hesitate to reach out to Providence-Oris. We can use our expertise to ensure you receive the products, training, and support you need.