Air quality still low in southeast Wisconsin but is improving

About half of the nation’s 1,300 coal- and oil-fired power plants lack modern pollution controls, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Image by MCT

Air quality still low in southeast Wisconsin but is improving

By Jesse Ritka. CREATED Apr 25, 2012 - UPDATED: Apr 25, 2012

CONCORD - Even though you can't see them, pollution particles in southeast Wisconsin are making it hard for some to breathe.

Patti Grosenick has asthma and tells TODAY'S TMJ4's Jesse Ritka how hard it is for her when the air quality is low, "It feels like someone's sitting on your chest, it's scary to not be able to breathe."

Grosenick keeps her emergency inhaler close by and always plans her days and her visits to Milwaukee carefully because of the pollution particles.

"I never know when I'll have to cancel my plans.  I always have to plan around the weather," Grosenick explains.

And after the results of the American Lung Association's State of the Air report, it won't get any easier for Patti.  Milwaukee was ranked the 20th most polluted city across the country in a 24-hour air quality test.

Dona Wininsky of the American Lung Association says there are several factors why Milwaukee tested low, not only in the 24-hour test but also in the number of days with high ozone levels, "It's a large urban area, so we have a lot of traffic, industry and a certain amount of pollution that blows up from Chicago as well."

But there is good news, "The air quality in southeast Wisconsin is definitely improving.  If you were to compare the grades from today's report to the grades from 13 years ago when we started this report, you'd see a lot of 'F's back then and we're seeing a very healthy number of 'A's."

The healthiest counties for ozone were: Jefferson, Washington and Waukesha County all receiving 'A's for the number of days with high ozone levels. Walworth County received a 'B'.

Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine did not score as well, all seeing several days with unhealthy ozone levels, giving them a 'D'.  Sheboygan and Kenosha County both got 'F's in the State of the Air report.

So the American Lung Association and Patti both agree that more needs to be done.  "I've had asthma for so long that I haven't really seen a difference yet," Patti remarks.

Grosenick is happy for events like the Fight for Air Climb, but want everyone to be more conscious of their own pollution.

"Use public transportation and try to not drive if they can carpool with another employee, reduce the number of cars on the road, bike or walk.  Another area is gasoline powered lawn equipment, those kick out a lot of pollution," says Wininsky.

So the American Lung Association recommends really cutting back on the gasoline powered equipment on days where air quality alerts are issued to make it a little easier on people like Patti.


Jesse Ritka

Jesse Ritka

Jesse Ritka joined TODAY’S TMJ4 and Storm Team 4 in February 2011 as the “Live at Daybreak” weekend meteorologist. Growing up in Prior Lake, Minnesota, Jesse has always been fascinated by storms.