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Published April 22, 2009, 08:05 AM

Our View: Our advice to EPA: Do what’s right

Come on, EPA. You can’t be serious. Air-quality standards at schools in Mitchell and Yankton are among the nation’s worst, according to a report by the national newspaper USA Today. Yet when the Environmental Protection Agency begins doling out funds and assistance to conduct test to check up on the health of our schools’ air quality, it won’t be doing so in South Dakota.

Come on, EPA. You can’t be serious. Air-quality standards at schools in Mitchell and Yankton are among the nation’s worst, according to a report by the national newspaper USA Today. Yet when the Environmental Protection Agency begins doling out funds and assistance to conduct test to check up on the health of our schools’ air quality, it won’t be doing so in South Dakota.

We’ll be the first to say that we aren’t convinced there is truly an air-quality problem around Mitchell’s schools. USA Today says otherwise, citing a questionable report based upon actual monitoring at just 95 of 127,800 schools nationwide. No monitoring was done within South Dakota’s borders, but the findings partly are based on the schools’ proximity to local manufacturing plants.

USA Today’s findings claim that 10 South Dakota schools rank in the 10th percentile, meaning the air quality at those sites was worse than 90 percent of America’s schools.

Whereas there are no findings to actually prove that air-quality around our schools is bad, there are no hard findings to refute that claim, either.

Therein lies the problem.

If 10 schools within South Dakota are considered among the worst in the nation for air quality, prove it to us. Not only is the EPA choosing to sidestep USA Today’s claims in South Dakota, but it also will not provide funding that could help the state Department of Natural Resources conduct the testing on its own.

It also leaves several local businesses with no way — other than paying for testing themselves — to be exonerated from claims that they are polluting our air.

For its part, the DENR is hoping funds come in the future. For our part, we wish the DENR would simply make the commitment and do the testing on its own, with state money. If our children are at risk — and we truly don’t think they are — we deserve to know.

After analyzing the data, the EPA has said that USA Today’s data for some schools in South Dakota is wrong. That’s good news and we’re happy to hear it.

But the agency still should do what’s right and support monitoring at least one site in South Dakota to decide once and for all if dangers lurk in the skies above our schools, as USA Today dangerously suggests.

Come on, EPA. Do what’s right.

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