DESOTO COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - Ozone ratings could cost DeSoto County big bucks. The county, along with the state of Mississippi, is fighting the EPA over the issue.
DeSoto, Shelby and Crittenden counties are lumped together as one group when the EPA looks at pollution and ozone levels. In October, DeSoto County asked to be separated.
The EPA just turned down that request, but the county doesn't want to take no for an answer.
The EPA requires ozone readings to be below 75 parts per billion. Crittenden County is over with a 77. Both Shelby and Desoto Counties are under the limit, but all three are in the same district so if one is over, they all are.
It's why DeSoto and Mississippi state regulators asked the EPA to separate the county, and why they're upset the request was denied.
"This is a failure to take a responsible approach to environmental protection," writes Trudy Fisher with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. "The EPA's decision is not a required federal mandate and is contrary to the data we submitted to them."
DeSoto has worked to reduce its emissions by retiring old fleets of vehicles, updating current ones, and modifying the county's school buses. All that has brought the county's ozone rating down to a 73. It cost money to do those things, now Mississippi doesn't want to pay to bring Arkansas' number down.
"This action will drain resources of three states and two EPA regions with more paperwork, more staff time and more meetings -- all for little or no benefit," says Fisher.
It could cost DeSoto in other ways, requiring tougher standards for new businesses and things like car inspections.
DeSoto County's Environmental Services Department is meeting with the state Tuesday, December 13th to talk about addressing the EPA on the issue again.
They have til the end of February to submit more evidence to the agency. The EPA will make its final decision by spring.