New Particulate Pollution Air Quality Index

Image:  Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality

You may soon notice some changes to the Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI is a standardized color-coded scale used to describe health concerns associated with common pollutants such as ground-level ozone and PM2.5 (particulate pollution smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter). The AQI can range from 0 to 500. An AQI from 0-50 is green, for good air quality, whereas an AQI above 300 is maroon, meaning that air quality is hazardous. When the AQI is above 100 (orange or worse), air quality is unhealthy: first for sensitive groups of people, then for everyone as the values increase.

On May 6, the AQI changed for PM2.5 such that the breakpoint between green (good) and yellow (moderate) air quality has become more stringent. The Moderate category now begins when fine particle pollution concentrations reach 9 micrograms per cubic meter of air (the level of the updated annual air quality standard). Previously, the Moderate category began at 12 micrograms per cubic meter. EPA implemented this change to increase public health protection, consistent with evolving scientific understanding of the impacts of PM2.5 pollution. As a result of this, you may see air quality reach the yellow (moderate) AQI more frequently than in the past.

Don’t forget to sign up for air quality forecasts and alerts!

Help Celebrate 50 Years of Coastal Zone Management

Image Courtesy of the VMN Partner: Virginia Department of Environmental Quality

Help Celebrate 50 Years of Coastal Zone Management
–By Virginia Witmer, Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality

The diversity of our ocean and coasts is as great as its people. They provide places to live, work, and play, drive our nation’s economy, and support a wealth of biodiversity. They are an integral part of our national heritage and character.
In Virginia, our coast encompasses thousands of miles of beautiful shoreline and coastal habitats in all of the cities, counties and towns that touch on tidal waters. It includes the waters of tidal rivers, the Chesapeake Bay, Back Bay and out to the 200 nautical mile boundary in the Atlantic Ocean.

50 years ago, Congress passed banner legislation designed to protect our nation’s ocean and coasts. The 1972 National Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) shaped our past 50 years and will continue to shape the future.

The versatility of the CZMA, administered by NOAA, provides for the management of the nation’s coastal resources. It outlines the National Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program to balance competing land and water issues through state coastal management programs, such as the Virginia Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program.

The Virginia CZM Program, established in 1986, is a network of state agencies and local governments led by DEQ that administer the enforceable laws and regulations that protect our air and water quality and coastal habitats.  Read more about the coastal resiliency, restoration and conservation efforts of the Virginia CZM Program being funded through the CZMA.  Visit

This federal and state partnership approach works.

But it also needs you.  Please help raise awareness about all that our ocean and coasts do for us.  Share the 50 ways (and more!) Virginians can show their love for our ocean and coast. There are many actions, big and small, from which to choose when at home and work, out and about, volunteering, in the garden, on vacation, at play, and in school and volunteering!

More Resources
50 ways to love your Ocean and Coasts video
50 ways to love your ocean and coasts webpage
50 years of ocean and coast legislation webpage
50 years of accomplishments and successes administering ocean and coastal conservation policy webpage
Prevent Balloon Litter Campaign
Plant Virginia Natives Initiative