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Clean Air Tennessee

1969 - Chattanooga most polluted city in the united states

The Department of Health, Education and Welfare named Chattanooga the most polluted city in the nation.  Chattanooga had a heavy industrial base, and in 1inversion picture969, unregulated emissions from industries, railroads, and coal furnaces caused high concentrations of particulate matter.  Chattanooga's topography compounded the problem by causing temperature inversions (during which cold air flows over the mountains into the valley and is trapped--with the pollution--by a layer of warm air).

These factors, along with deteriorating scenic views and rising national claims of pollution-related sickness, prompted the citizens, government, and industrial leaders in Chattanooga and Hamilton County to take drastic measures and proposed air pollution control regulations, which had been debated for years, suddenly became a priority.

1972 - Achieved Local Standard

Chabillboard picturettanoogans approved a new Air Pollution Control Ordinance in late 1969.  This aggressive legislation, which created the current Air Pollution Control Board and Bureau, set restrictions on almost all pollution-causing activities in the county.  It placed limits on visible emissions from local industries, and set the attainment date for October 14, 1972.  Incredibly, in that three-year period, every major pollution source in Hamilton County was in compliance, at a cost of over $40 million.  This tremendous achievement received national attention and was celebrated with "Clean Air Week" during October 1972.


1989 - Achieved Federal Standard

When Chattanooga's air quality met all federal health standards in 1989 the city celebrated. For nearly 15 years we remained in attainment; however, the adoption of new federal regulations changed that status.  While Chattanooga's air is cleaner than it has ever been, it is the growing awareness of the link between air pollution and illness that caused the government to make air quality standards more stringent.

2008 - Meeting the federal standards

The EPA, working with environmental groups and air pollution organizations, created a way to achieve cleaner air faster. Areas destined to be out of compliance with federal standards were allowed to form Early Action Compacts (EAC).  These compacts were agreements to take voluntary measures to clean up the air.  Chattanooga and Hamilton County did and were designated in "attainment" with federal standards for ozone. (We were declared out of attainment for particulate in early 2005.) 

Our state, county and city took several progressive steps toward achieving attainment as a result of the Compact.  These include:

  • County-wide vehicle emissions testing
  • Seasonal burning (allowed from October-April each year)
  • Vapor recovery systems for fuel tankers
  • Pollution Solution public outreach program
  • Diesel school bus retrofitting
  • Lowering truck speed limits on the interstate

Without the cooperation among government, industry, and a concerned citizenry, the progress Chattanooga has made would not have been possible.  Please help us make air pollution history--in Chattanooga and Hamilton County now and for generations to come.