How we protect the air
We monitor the air in many areas of Washington. Monitors track air quality to make sure areas meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Our atmospheric scientists also monitor weather conditions in order to identify potential dangerous and unhealthy dust storms. By doing this, we are able to provide advanced warning to those in affected areas.
State Implementation Plan
A State Implementation Plan (SIP) describes how the state implements, maintains, and enforces National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The SIP is a collection of documents that is in constant development. Washington’s SIP has been developed in multiple phases over more than 30 years.
Washington’s SIP contains:
- Rules adopted into the SIP.
- Plans for implementing new or revised National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
- Plans for attaining and maintaining National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
- State air quality programs.
If you have looked outside and been disappointed to see an ugly brown or pinkish haze ruining the view, you are likely seeing regional haze. Regional haze is air pollution caused when tiny particles in the air absorb and scatter sunlight, reducing the clarity and color of the air. We are working to improve visibility in national parks and wilderness areas.
Outdoor dust management
Dust storms are of concern mainly in Central and Eastern Washington. They usually happen in the summer and fall, but can occur any time of the year. Construction and agricultural dust contribute to dust storms when massive amounts of soil and dust are lifted into the air. This dust can harm your health and safety by affecting your breathing and limiting your visibility when driving.
Wildfire smoke affects air quality reporting
In 2017, the state was overwhelmed by smoke from wildfires burning both locally and across the west. Although all of Washington suffered from poor air quality, the smoke was especially thick in Yakima and Kennewick on Sept. 5, 6, and 7.