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Since its 1991 formation as the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (Air District), this sham of a health agency has continuously shown allegiance to big polluters and scorn for the breathing public.

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Several factors are known to consistently hold our county down in the major health rankings conducted annually. Locally, these include our poverty level, unemployment rate, and low medical provider-to- population ratios with contributing impact from the national obesity and diabetes epidemics. But unique to this valley is the COMBINATION of these factors compounded by the poor quality of the air we breathe.

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Wednesday, Oct 17 2012 05:04 PM
BY JOHN COX Californian staff writer This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Federal and state officials are ramping up pressure on the Arvin-Edison Water Storage District to allow the return of an air quality monitoring station that the agency had removed from its property more than a year ago.

Representatives of the California Air Resources Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent letters to the district last week asking for a speedy resolution of the three-year-old dispute.

 
 

Both agencies warned that, until the matter is settled, the federal government cannot declare the Central Valley to be in compliance with air standards -- meaning $38 million in fines will continue to be levied against area residents regardless of any improvement in air quality.

It remains to be seen what leverage the two regulatory agencies might bring to bear against the water storage district if it continues to resist reinstallation of the monitor.

But in an Oct. 8 letter to district Engineer-Manager Steve Collup, Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols noted that the district's ability to own property and levy taxes "come with a responsibility to the citizens of California." Although the letter contains no explicit threats, one is clearly implied.

"If an acceptable agreement cannot be reached, ARB will be forced to explore alternate options that unfortunately would likely demand more time and expense from all who would be affected if Arvin-Edison does not change course," Nichols wrote.

The Oct. 10 letter from EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld was less pointed but equally emphatic.

"It is imperative that we quickly reach an agreement on how to relocate the monitor back to its original site," he wrote.

Collup said he would bring up the letters at the district's next board meeting, set for Nov. 16. But until then, he said he expects the state to look into the feasibility of moving the station to a neighboring property, as he recommended earlier.

"If that location is important to them, walk across the road," he said. "It's 70 feet and that landowner I'm sure would work with them."

The water storage district had hosted the monitor at its property on Bear Mountain Boulevard since 1989. But over the years the agencies' relationship deteriorated.

Collup said the last time the lease came up, in 2009, district board members expressed frustration with the air board's tighter air restrictions. They also complained that they were not getting straight answers from the state.

The water district's board members "really questioned the credibility and the science behind all these rules and regulations (air board representatives) were promulgating," Collup said.

He also said the district has had to replace or retrofit its dump trucks and other heavy equipment, at significant expense -- and that board members are local farmers who directly felt the effects of more stringent air rules.

The water district agreed to leave the monitor in place for another year, into 2010, but has resisted the board's request to have the device put back.

Different readings

The air board initially thought that moving the monitoring station would present no problems. But it became apparent that the new location, near Di Giorgio Elementary School, was registering ozone readings about 10 percent cleaner than those of the previous station.

That presents a legal problem. Nichols' letter says the air board and the EPA won't be able to determine whether the Central Valley has attained its air quality improvement goals unless new readings can be taken at the water district's Bear Mountain Boulevard site.

Nichols' letter offers to pay "any reasonable fee" the district deems appropriate. It notes that the monitor would be located in a shipping container on a concrete pad measuring 14 feet by 34 feet, and that air board personnel would need access to the station just once a week for one to two hours.

A Kern County environmental activist group, the Association of Irritated Residents, has sided with the air board, arguing that air quality readings from the new monitoring station cannot be used to show improvement.

"Getting accurate and consistent readings of the air quality in the Arvin area is critical to the health and quality of life for thousands of valley residents," AIR President Tom Frantz wrote in a Wednesday news release.


Clean Air Advocates Call for Valley-wide Emergency Air Alert System

Read more: Advocates Call for Air Alert System


MEDIA ADVISORY

July 13, 2012

Contact: Kevin Hall 559-301-5537

WHAT:  Media Availability by Air Quality Advocates, Health Experts

WHEN:  10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Friday, July 13


WILL FRIDAY THE 13th PROVE UNLUCKY FOR VALLEY RESIDENTS?

Valley Air Board understates smog levels, fails to warn public

FRESNO - The San Joaquin Valley endured its second day in a row of high air pollution levels without a word of warning from the public health agency tasked by law with keeping more than 4 million people warned of danger on dirty air days, and the third such day in a row will happen today, Friday the 13th. 

"Either the Valley Air Board is asleep at the wheel or its members have simply chosen to look the other way," said Kevin Hall, Director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, Fresno. "Despite the fact that research funded by the Board and highlighted in its annual report to the community shows that high smog levels lead to spikes in children's asthma attacks and emergency room visits." According to the report, authored by the Central Valley Health Policy Institute, on summer days of the worst ozone pollution, youth are 69% more likely to be admitted to an emergency room for asthma.

(see page 26 at http://www.valleyair.org/General_info/pubdocs/AnnualReport2011-v6b_singlepages.pdf)

This marks the second time in 2012 the Valley Air Board has failed to issue public safety warnings about high smog levels; June 1 saw this year's first high spike during which the federal one-hour standard for ozone was violated in Parlier, Calif. On July 12 monitors throughout Fresno, Clovis and Madera moved into the purple range on the Air Quality Index -- for up to four hours in the worst case.

(see http://www.valleyair.org/programs/raan/raan_index.htm?x=FRSGRLND)

 "While today's air quality index is projected to drop slightly today, it will still be dangerously high. As for the air board's predictions, yesterday in Fresno County it should have been a Purple Flag Day," said Hall. "The AQI averaged above 200, and from 2 pm to 5 pm it was above 250. These are dangerously high levels. Our concern is that warnings are not being issued; if the Valley Air Board truly wanted to protect people, warnings would begin at the 100 AQI level." Such warnings were issued earlier this year when winds led to dusty conditions.

 For information on ground level ozone and its impacts on human health, go to: http://www.calcleanair.org/resources/what-is-ozone.html.

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