Home Page     Schedule    Fees   Contact us     Private Smoke Schools     Other links to information about our training

About our Smoke School training

Whitlow Enterprises Smoke School EPA Method 9 and 22 visible emissions opacity certification programs follow EPA guidelines in accordance with 40 CFR 60 Appendix A. Whitlow smoke schools have been tested by court. Our smoke schools are audited by the EPA and various state environmental departments.

We are well known for excellent customer service. We are members of the Better Business Bureau and the West Monroe- West Ouachita Chamber of Commerce.  We are different from most smoke school providers because we love smoke school and we want you to pass. During the certification test, we focus on low level opacity  between zero to fifty percent as required by your permits. We do not jump around from high to low and back and forth. This serves no purpose except to make the test harder to pass. Most Whitlow Smoke Schools are conducted on one day. Why we do a one-day smoke school.

We start our customer service weeks before each smoke school by choosing smoke school locations that provide the following:

If we can't find an adequate contrasting background then we will make one. The movies below demonstrate how Whitlow man made contrasting backgrounds provide a significant improvement over reading white smoke with white clouds for a background.

  1. Practice smoke school movie video 1- What is the opacity?
  2. Practice smoke school movie video 2- What is the opacity?
  3. Practice smoke school movie video 3-  What is the opacity?
  4. Practice smoke school movie video 4- - What is the opacity?

EPA Method 9 Certification Field-test - One and 1/2 Hours Minimum

You can take the field-test and attend the classroom in a single day. If you just need the field-test you should be finished in one and one half hours after we start the actual certification test.  Most people pass the test on the first run or at least during the morning session.  Unless otherwise notified, the field-test and EPA Method 9 certification starts at 8 AM on the first day of training. Everyone should report to the school at 8AM. Sometimes we delay the school start time until everyone on the roster is present. If this sounds like the old military saying- hurry up and wait, then I apologize.

Please be considerate of other attendees. Please contact us if you:

Before we start the test, we always have a mini-lecture to teach the basic fundamentals of how to take the smoke school test and how to read opacity in the field. We start out with these fundamentals of how to read opacity in the field at your plant:

1.  How to choose an observation position- where to stand

  1. Sun to your back

  2. Winds blowing perpendicular to your line of view- from your left to your right- not coming at you or going away from you

  3. Get back at least 3 stack heights to obtain a vertical angle of 18 degrees or less

  4. How to make and use a Boudreaux Level to determine your vertical angle

  5. Choose an observation position that allows a contrasting background. You can not read white smoke with white clouds in the background. You can not read black smoke with black clouds in the background.

  6. How to use a Ringelmann smoke chart for black smoke

2. How to choose the correct observation point- where to look at and observe the plume

  1. The densest part of the plume

  2. No steam- at the tip of the smokestack before the plume spreads

  3. Attached steam- touching the smokestack- observe at the end of the steam plume- the densest part of the plume after the steam ends or evaporates

  4. Detached steam- not touching the smokestack- read before the steam starts or after the steam ends

3. The frequency of your observation readings

  1. Take a reading every 15 seconds using a stopwatch

  2. Read the opacity every 15 seconds for a minimum of 6 minutes to make a single set of readings

  3. This makes 24 readings in 6 minutes

  4. Sum up your readings

  5. Determine the average opacity reading- Divide the total of the opacity readings by the number of readings

4. What do you do if your observation evaluation is out of compliance.

  1. Notify your operator and plant manager immediately

  2. Get permission to shut down the process and fix the problem

  3. Conduct another evaluation after the problem is corrected

5.  How to record your opacity readings on the EPA Method 9 Form- Instructions for completing the Method 9 Form

When we finish the fundamentals of reading smoke in the field, we teach you the basic fundamentals of how to take the smoke school certification test.

  1. Do not look at the smoke until you hear the word read.

  2. Read the opacity at the densest part of the plume- the top of the smokestack.

  3. Look at the smoke for 3 seconds, then stop looking- we may be moving the valve to go onto the next reading. Only look when you hear the word read.

  4. Record the best answer in 15% intervals- 5, 10, 15, 25, etc.

  5. Always keep in mind the plus or minus 15% deviation required by EPA to pass the test. Remember there is no such thing as negative smoke. If it is barely coming out, then call it a five. In your head- choose the best readings, add 15- subtract 15- choose your answer appropriately. If you choose the answer 15%, then you have covered the actual opacity from 0% to 30%. This is important- remember this. Think of this as windows on your computer. You must be in the correct window of opportunity.

  6. Do not look back at the smoke until you hear the word read again.

  7. Do not stare at the plume between readings- This causes optical illusions and confusion

  8. Do not second guess- read it and record it- your first impression is always right. If I had listened to my momma, I would not have been married 12 times. "This girl is not right for you."

  9. Never change an answer unless you have to.

Examples of optical illusions:  Click on one of my eyes.


Then we show you how to read opacity. We show the smoke school standards of 25%, 50% and 75%. We show you to memorize  what these standards look like and how to choose the best opacity answers on your answer sheet, keeping in mind the plus or minus 15% deviation required by EPA to pass the test. We show and tell you how to pass the test quickly. This is an important step. If you listen and pay attention, then you will pass the test, usually the fist time. Bring a positive attitude.

Then we let you perform the task of reading opacity with supervision. This is the smoke school practice test. We present several smoke plumes and let you choose the best answer and record it on a green practice sheet. We observe you while you are taking the practice test to make sure that you are following the correct observation fundamentals.  Then we call out the correct opacity and let you evaluate your performance. This reminds me a lot of throwing a rock at a frog on a water lillie pad in my momma's fishing pond. If you miss the frog, adjust your sights and throw again.


After all of the instructions and practice, then we present the smoke school opacity certification test. We usually finish the test within an hour and a half after we start the actual test.

Visible Emissions


Call us-


Contact us email,snail,phone

Add me to Whitlow Smoke School Email List

Pictures Photo Album



Certification Status, When am I due?

Recipe Cajun Fried Catfish

Recipe for Quick good Gumbo

Smoke School


 About Us

About Our Training

What to bring

Outside Links

Purchase a Ringelmann smoke chart

Request a Brochure

Private Custom-made On-site Smoke Schools

Home Page

smoke school stories and family stories

Discounts for first time attendees

Notary Services

Music Download

Visible Emissions

Refer a Friend to Smoke School


Up to 50% discount for first time customers

Frequently Asked Questions

Employment Opportunities

Blue Bayou Days- The Summer of 61/ a novel by Uncle George

EPA Method 9 Visible Emissions Form

Instructions for Method 9 form

Your Comments about this website or smoke school

What people say about Whitlow Schools

T-shirts, candy, and other merchandise- shopping.