Particulate matter emissions from diesel-powered automobiles should be included in a law to control nitrogen oxide air pollution if urban air quality needs to be brought to an acceptable level, according to an Environment Agency advisory committee.

In its interim report, the committee urged the government to take a tougher stance on particulate matter emissions by making them subject to law in an effort to control nitrogen oxide emissions particularly in two areas with the most polluted air — the Kanto and Kinki regions.

The report also proposes that automobiles operated in the two regions be required to meet the most stringent emissions standards.

This could effectively ban ownership and operation of diesel-powered automobiles within these areas as manufacturers are currently incapable of producing diesel autos that burn cleanly enough to meet the more stringent gasoline standards.

The proposal also calls for increased action on the part of local governments in taking measures to cut nitrogen oxide and diesel exhaust particulate pollution.

It further advocates that special plans be drawn up to ameliorate air quality at intersections and other areas consistently plagued with air quality that fails to meet agency-established standards.

Other items for future consideration include requiring operators of large fleets of automobiles to establish a use management plan to reduce emissions, encourage manufacturers to more aggressively cut emissions by drawing up an average emissions level for their line of automobiles and aggressively publicizing it, as well as encouraging the purchase of low-emission vehicles possibly through privileged parking facilities or reduced toll fares.

The agency will allow about a one month “public comment” period for citizens to send in their opinions and pull together the final report by the end of this year with submission to the next Diet session, agency officials said.

Hole in ozone largest

The Meteorological Agency said the size of the hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic is at its largest ever — more than twice the size of the surface of the Antarctic — due to low temperatures beneath the stratosphere.

The hole was estimated to be 28.4 million sq. km Sunday, larger than the previous worst record of 27 million sq. km in 1998, agency officials said Tuesday.

The amount of ozone molecules that have been destroyed since the beginning of this year was estimated at 80 million tons as of Sunday, they said, noting it could surpass the record 89 million tons in 1998 by the end of this year.

The unusual growth of the ozone hole is attributed to low temperatures in winter under the ozone layer that can break down water vapor and nitric acid into cloudlike material containing chlorine chemical compounds, the officials said.

Limits on chemicals

Limits should be placed on the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous in waste water that pours into Tokyo and Osaka bays as well as the Inland Sea, according to a report released Wednesday by an Environment Agency advisory committee on water quality.

To improve water quality in the three bodies of water, the committee recommended that the 13 prefectures adjacent to them devise and implement regulatory standards limiting the amount of the two chemicals in effluent water.

Agency officials said new standards should be added to the traditional water quality index — COD, or chemical oxygen demand — in a effort to boost water quality.

Phosphorus and nitrogen act as nutrients for algae and can result in algal outbreaks, such as red tides, which reduce animal diversity and kill fish.

Companies, farms and factories that release more than 50 cu. meters of water per day will be subject to the new standards and obligated to report levels of phosphorous and nitrogen in their waste water.

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