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DeSoto County gets all-clear from EPA on ozone levels

By JACK WEATHERLY 

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has determined that DeSoto County has achieved compliance with EPA standards on ozone levels, according to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.

The ruling lifts a cloud over economic development in the burgeoning community just across the state line from Memphis.

“We’re very pleased with the decision,” said Jim Flanagan, president and chief executive of the DeSoto County Economic Development Council. “It does open doors that could’ve been closed to manufacturing projects.”

Flanagan said in an interview there was no way of knowing if the county had been crossed off a list by  prospective employers because of the EPA Designation.

Just as the county has been negatively affected by its proximity to Memphis, which has been lumped together with Crittenden County, Ark., it has benefited greatly as well.

Last year was sterling for DeSoto in economic terms. New or expanded industries totaled 38, compared with 25 in 2014, according to the county’s annual report. Capital investment soared to $237 million, up from $46 million the year before. And 1,612 jobs were created, versus 1,200 in 2014.

DeSoto County met air quality standards for three years running, and thus the designation was lifted, Flanagan said.

In 2012, EPA designated the northern portion of the county, closest to Memphis, as being in nonattainment “even though MDEQ’s air monitoring data for the county was below EPA’s ozone standard,” the Mississippi agency said in a release.

“We did not believe that DeSoto County significantly contributed to the nonattainment in the Memphis area,” MDEQ Executive Director Gary Rikard said in the release.

Ground level ozone is created when pollutants react to sunlight. It is the primary ingredient in smog.

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