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Alejandro Arias-Esparza, who works in environmental outreach and edu-cation for the city of Wichita, explains what local businesses can do to help reduce adverse emissions in the air. The action steps he discussed are voluntary at this time.

While it’s not currently required for businesses to take energy-saving steps to cut down on emissions that can cause air pollution, it makes sense from an environmental perspective along with a financial one, said Alejandro Arias-Esparza.

That was one of the messages from Arias-Esparza, who works in environmental outreach and education for the Public Works and Utilities division of the city of Wichita.

“It’s just a better quality of life for the area as well,” said Arias-Esparza, who was the guest speaker at the Derby Chamber of Commerce’s monthly business luncheon on Aug. 8 in the Austin Room at the Derby Welcome Center in City Hall.

Arias-Esparza, who appeared in front of a crowd of about 50 people, spoke about the city of Wichita’s Ozone Advancement Program, which is a regional effort, including Sedgwick, Butler, Harvey and Sumner coun-ties.

Its goal is to retrieve the Environmental Protection Agency attainment designation for the area.

Arias-Esparza, as well as Mark Staats, president and CEO of the Chamber, who invited him, stressed that the topic was “not political” and there would be no debate about the controversial climate change subject.

Instead, the focus was on what the city has done and what businesses can do to cooperate with making the area a healthy one for all.

The outreach to area cities has just started, but already Derby has been quick to jump into the effort, which should be proactive, he said.

Reducing energy helps cut pollutants

“We should be trying to avoid the consequences of it and waiting for things to happen,” he said.

As Arias-Esparza explained, there’s “good” ozone, which is from six to 30 miles above the Earth and protects life, and “bad” ozone, which is at the ground level and is a pollutant that is harmful to breathe and damaging to crops and trees.

Air quality measurements are taken on a regular basis and areas that are out of compliance could find themselves being forced by the EPA to take corrective measures. Being able to show that a city is taking its own steps to ease harmful emissions will help in any federal action, he said.

Arias-Esparza also wants to highlight businesses that do take initiative with recognitions, much in the manner that the Tree City USA group is-sues plaques to cities that, like Derby, plant trees and care for them.

Steps that businesses can undertake include going through energy audits and fixing air and heat leaks.

Other steps include sharing rides, walking or biking, reducing vehicle idling, even fueling when it’s cool – after 6 p.m.

“The less energy you use, the better for the ozone,” he said.

Staats agreed, saying something as simple as changing to LED lights or putting a timer on a thermostat to increase the temperature during the summer and lower it in the winter, will save businesses money.

“These are all things we can do,” he said.

It also will show federal authorities that the city is working to be environmentally friendly.

“The main thing is to check the boxes to show that businesses in this area are trying,” he said.

It’s not a political matter, either, he said.

“We all love the environment,” he said. “We need to be aware of our natural resources and think about what emissions we put out there.”

Staats recalled his own childhood in southern California when the smog was so bad at times that schoolchildren couldn’t go out for recess.

Concerns about measurement process

While saying Arias-Esparza’s presentation was a useful one, Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Howell, who represents Derby and also was at the meeting, had concerns about how the federal government is measuring the area’s pollutants. In 2012, a record heat wave had an ad-verse effect on the results, Howell said, and he was concerned that statistics may be inaccurate and a factor that local residents “have no control over.”

There’s no question citizens want clean air, but if a regional wildfire is blowing debris into the measuring zone, that could be an adverse effect, Howell said.

“Don’t penalize the community when it’s outside their ability to control,” he said.

For more information and to sign up for ozone alerts, go to www.beairawareks.org.

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