Smokies air quality ‘noticeably clean’ during pandemic

The dark cloud created by coronavirus came with a silver lining: cleaner air and fresher streams.

“We’ve had really good days,” said Jim Renfro, the air quality program manager for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “It’s been pretty clean,” Renfro said. “Noticeably clean.”

There’s a reason the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America’s most visited national park: it’s not only beautiful, it’s close to some major cities: Charlotte and Knoxville for examplek. With many of those cities quiet, Renfro said that will help make the Smokies less smoky.

“My guess is air quality along all fronts: ozone, particulate, the haze, acid rain, are all going to be better during this time, compared to the last five years,” Renfro said.

Industrial air filters that vacuum the air, even during the shutdown, are heading to labs now. “We’ve seen some preliminary data that shows that air quality has gotten better during this park shutdown,” Renfro said.

The park’s scientists spent the shutdown working with the Environmental Protection Agency.

“They’re (EPA) seeing 30-40% less in eastern United States ozone levels, rural ozone, including the park,” Renfro said.

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