Improving air quality in overburdened communities
Community open house dates and air quality survey
We are pausing for the holidays. Check back for an updated schedule of in-person open house meetings about reducing air pollution in communities across Washington.
In the meantime, take the air quality survey
We're working to improve air quality in Washington communities that are historically overburdened with health, social, and environmental inequities and are highly impacted by criteria air pollution, such as ozone and fine particles. A section of the Climate Commitment Act directs this work.
In November 2023, we will start holding in-person open houses about expanding Washington's air monitoring network and reducing air pollution. We want to hear from diverse voices in the community, including people who are most impacted. The first open houses will be held in Eastern Washington, and we are planning more for Central and Western Washington communities. See the box above for dates and times.
Communities identified as overburdened
We have started work to improve air quality in 16 places, representing numerous communities, neighborhoods, and towns across Washington that are overburdened and highly impacted by criteria air pollution. We used multiple sources of air quality data and environmental-justice information to identify these areas.
The places are a mix of urban, suburban, and rural. They vary in population, from about 1,500 to more than 200,000 people. They also range in area, from less than three square miles to 173 square miles. All together, they represent more than 1.2 million people or about 15.5% of Washington’s population.
We understand that other communities are affected by air pollution. We are working with Tribes, the public, the Environmental Justice Council, and other environmental justice advocates on this initiative. Although Tribal communities are not yet included in this work, we are consulting with Tribal governments and looking forward to adding Tribal communities soon.
|Area*||Estimated Population||Size (approximate square miles)||Elevated Air Pollutants|
|Ellensburg||16,273||6||Fine particles (PM2.5), cumulative criteria air pollution|
|Everett||83,973||17||Fine particles (PM2.5)|
|George and West Grant County||2,206||118||Fine particles (PM2.5)|
|King County, South||204,300||68||Fine particles (PM2.5), cumulative criteria air pollution|
|Mattawa||4,398||12||Fine particles (PM2.5)|
|Moxee Valley||5,793||38||Fine particles (PM2.5), cumulative criteria air pollution|
|Puyallup, Northeast||9,574||3||Cumulative criteria air pollution|
|Seattle, North and Shoreline||39,997||5||Fine particles (PM2.5), cumulative criteria air pollution|
|Seattle, South||192,634||44||Fine particles (PM2.5), cumulative criteria air pollution|
|Spokane and Spokane Valley||147,407||42||Fine particles (PM2.5), cumulative criteria air pollution|
|Tacoma, South and East||133,463||28||Fine particles (PM2.5), cumulative criteria air pollution|
|Tri-Cities to Wallula||112,708||173||Particle pollution (PM2.5 and PM10), ozone, cumulative criteria air pollution|
|Vancouver||103,388||29||Fine particles (PM2.5), cumulative criteria air pollution|
|Wenatchee and East Wenatchee||32,183||10||Fine particles (PM2.5)|
|Yakima, East||59,803||16||Fine particles (PM2.5), cumulative criteria air pollution|
|Yakima Valley, Lower||54,838||157||Fine particles (PM2.5), cumulative criteria air pollution|
* All areas ranked high on the Washington Environmental Health Disparities map and/or EPA's EJScreen mapping tool. These tools show where vulnerable populations face more risk or exposure to pollution. We also looked at other factors: social and economic differences, historic redlining, health care access, known health disparities (like increased asthma and lower life expectancy). Read the StoryMap for specific boundaries, more information about each community, and the process we used to identify them.
Public feedback was an important part of the work to identify overburdened communities for this environmental justice initiative. With the data we get after expanding the air monitoring network, we will work with local governments, local clean air agencies, Tribes, and others to address criteria air pollution in identified communities. This may include developing new emission-control mechanisms and other environmental protections.
Reducing criteria air pollution in identified communities will happen in stages over multiple years. Next steps include:
- Work with tribal governments to identify which of their communities are highly impacted by criteria air pollution.
- Involve identified communities as this work progresses.
- Expand the air monitoring network in identified communities.
- Collect and analyze data about criteria air pollutants affecting these communities.
- Work to reduce criteria air pollution in identified communities, as we get more money to pay for this work.
- Report every two years about criteria air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and health impacts in each community.
- Re-evaluate the list of communities every six years.