Category: News

VALLEY SMOG LEVELS SOAR

Air board promotes children’s calendar contest, fails to warn public of serious health risks

  • WHAT: MEDIA AVAILABILITY
  • WHEN: Wednesday, Sept. 21, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • WHERE: Central Valley Air Quality Coalition 
    1316 E. Olive Ave. (at San Pablo), Fresno

On Tuesday, San Joaquin Valley residents suffered through this year’s first violations of the federal one-hour ozone standard. Air pollution monitoring stations reported separate violations in the City of Fresno and in the rural Fresno County community of Parlier located 20 miles downwind of the metropolitan area.

“The smog cloud that formed over southeast Fresno Tuesday afternoon had an ozone reading of 127 ppb from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. and grew in intensity as it moved toward Parlier where a staggering 134 ppb was recorded from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. “While we can’t lose sight of the eight-hour ozone standard, these peak one-hour levels are also of serious concern to public health advocates,” said Kevin Hall, director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition. The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is mandated by federal law to attain both standards.

“Smog levels throughout the central and southern valley are consistently reaching health-damaging levels for eight hours or more, and very high afternoon peak levels are lasting for several hours. If these were tornadoes, the sirens would be sounding for everyone to take cover indoors. The one-hour peak reading is simply the eye of a major smog storm preceded and followed by hours of dangerous exposure levels.”

Damage to human health begins at 75 ppb; levels above 85 ppb for eight continuous hours violate the eight-hour standard, and levels above 125 ppb for a single hour are a violation of the one-hour standard. This year’s previous one-hour high of 124 ppb was set on Sept. 7 in Southeast Fresno.? ?Of grave concern to health advocates is the valley air board’s failure to actively warn the public of the specific health impacts and risks during this especially dangerous period.

“The air board’s message to the public has been focused on ending financial sanctions rather than protecting our kids’ health. We have had reports of youth sports teams’ afternoon practices happening throughout the region,” said Hall. “Today the valley air board learned they had failed on the financial front, and rather than turning to public health and issuing urgent warnings, they chose to send out a reminder about a kids’ calendar contest. Such a serious disconnect at this time of crisis reveals how disingenuous the air board’s public information effort has become. It’s an abysmal failure of leadership.”

VALLEY AIR DISTRICT CELEBRATION COMES 12 YEARS TOO LATE

Thousands of lives lost, damaged due to long history of delay

The Central Valley Air Quality Coalition is critical of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District’s misplaced message of celebration contained in its Sept. 1, 2011 media release, Valley Sets Clean-Air Record.

“The only clean air record earned by our air district is for delay,” said Kevin Hall, Director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, Fresno. “Where do we go to celebrate in 1999?” That’s the first year when an entire year, not a single month, was required under the federal Clean Air Act of 1990 to show no violations of the older, weaker standard tied one-hour ozone levels. “We missed that deadline 12 years ago.”

“Before we break out the champagne, there is no such ‘clean-air record,’ and the district’s P.R. machine and executive director are guilty of deliberately hiding ongoing health risks from a public that is endangered and already suffering at epidemic levels,” said Hall. “What the air district staff intentionally fails to point out is that this August was the worst since 2006 for violations of the current 8-hour ozone standard, the smog levels at which human health is damaged (see chart below). We’re still waiting for that press release.”

  CVAQ steering board member from Wasco, Calif., Tom Frantz of the Association of Irritated Residents, points out other factors have affected the pollution levels in August, primarily a delayed almond harvest that is two weeks later than normal, meaning weather-induced reductions through the lack of intensive agricultural activity. Off-road diesel farm equipment is a major source of smog-causing pollutants and remains unregulated. Harvest activities further generate on-road diesel farm trucking, another unregulated source.

“The almond harvest is around two weeks late in getting started which can really delay the bad air settling in between Fresno and Bakersfield,” explained Frantz. “The amount of NOx from all the shakers, sweepers, pickup machines, old diesel trucks, and almond huller activity is tremendous – especially when compared to the incremental increase in traffic from back to school driving.”

Frantz also pointed out that earlier this year the air pollution monitoring station near Arvin, Calif., was removed. It has consistently recorded some of the highest levels in the valley.

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The Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, Fresno, Calif., is a partnership of more than 70 community, medical, public health, environmental and environmental justice organizations representing thousands of residents in the San Joaquin Valley unified in their commitment to improve the health of Californians.

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