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City Council calls on water district, air regulators for improved air pollution monitoring

The Arvin City Council has unanimously passed a resolution calling for improved air pollution monitoring within this city in southeastern Kern County and throughout the San Joaquin Valley. Members of the Committee for a Better Arvin, Association of Irritated Residents and the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment brought the resolution before the council for consideration at its June 19th meeting.

"We in Arvin have the unhealthiest air in the nation," said Sal Partido, Committee for a Better Arvin. "Although it is not the solution, fixing the monitor problem is a first step in trying to improve this situation. Let's get monitors where they need to be."

The resolution calls on the Arvin-Edison Water Storage District, San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, California Air Resources Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to work together to return a monitor to the water district property in Arvin. The monitor was unlawfully removed at the end of the 2010 ozone season.

"The removal of the Bear Mountain Boulevard Monitor makes it impossible for the air district to demonstrate compliance with the Clean Air Act," said Laura Baker, an attorney with the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, Delano.

The resolution also calls for placement of monitors within the highest-risk urban and rural communities throughout the San Joaquin Valley and in foothill and mountain communities. "More monitors throughout the valley will help protect peoples' health, our children’s future, and the economy," said Baker.

Committee for a Better Arvin, Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment and El Comité para el Bienestar de Earlimart are the lead organizations in Kern and Tulare counties for the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition’s Stand for Clean Air campaign. Go to www.calcleanair.org for more information and to read the resolution.

"This is our first step in a valley-wide campaign," said CVAQ Director Kevin Hall. "The valley’s public health crisis can be fixed, but we can’t hope to get there without an effective monitoring system. That must start in Arvin." CVAQ member organizations throughout the valley will be carrying this message forward throughout the 24,000-square-mile region.

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The Central Valley Air Quality Coalition 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 all Californians.


Is Health of High School Athletes at Clovis Track Meet in Jeopardy?

FRESNO - Temperatures and smog levels will soar together this afternoon throughout the San Joaquin

Valley, but the worst conditions are predicted for the Fresno-Clovis metropolitan area, home to a statewide track meet today of high school athletes from throughout California.

"It's a red flag day in Fresno County and an orange flag day in every other valley county," said Kevin Hall, director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, Fresno. "That means for at least eight hours today smog levels will be at dangerous levels and sometime during the afternoon in we will see peak levels well above the 150 reading on the air quality index. We're calling every media outlet in the valley to check air pollution levels for their area today and consider issuing special warnings to the public."

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District will not be issuing any emergency warnings during this high pollution episode. Last year the district governing board set in place a policy to focus on a "pocketbook" strategy of warnings tied to an outdated smog standard that has triggered federal sanctions on valley businesses and motorists. The board also eliminated its Spare the Air Day warning program three years ago.

"The Valley Air Board policy puts profits ahead of people's health. How many children and teenagers through the Valley will be at risk this afternoon?" asked Hall. "The Central Valley Air Quality Coalition strongly urges the media to inform the general public as best they can today about the serious risks posed by these high levels of smog."

Hourly pollution levels at every county-specific air pollution monitor in the valley can be viewed at the official website of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, www.valleyair.org, at the RAAN link (Real-time Air AdvisoryNetwork). However, as of 9 a.m. today the entire website appears to be down for maintenance purposes and it is unclear if the RAAN system will be operational.

"Protecting the health of our valley's four million residents is the issue today," said Hall. "And it's critically important to remember that the Air Quality Index orange flag level is an eight-hour average with peak levels in the red and possibly purple levels when outdoor activities must be curtailed or stopped."

Details on outdoor activity guidelines are available at the American Lung Association website.


Valley Air Board Fails to Warn Public of Health Risks, Impacts

  • WHO: Central Valley Air Quality Coalition
  • WHAT: Media Availability
  • WHERE: Fresno - CVAQ office, 1316 E. Olive (southwest corner of Olive and San Pablo, Fresno)
    Wasco - Contact Tom Frantz, 661-910-7734
  • WHEN: 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm Monday, October 3, 2011

FRESNO – According to the San Joaquin Valley Air Board, it was an orange flag day in Fresno County last Thursday, Sept. 29. But as members of a girls' water polo team entered a Clovis, Calif., pool that afternoon, they knew the air pollution was much worse -- "in the purple" as one young athlete later told her mother. So when one of their teammates was stricken with an asthma attack halfway through the match, it came as little surprise. Despite the obvious risks, the game continued.

Read more: Smoggy Days of September


Concerns of clean air advocates at the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition were realized today when initial readings of smog levels in Parlier, Calif., topped 200 on the federal air quality index (AQI) between 5 pm and 6 pm. This peak level far exceeds today's AQI prediction for Fresno County from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District of 151.

"In other words, in Parlier we went from red and into the purple zone," said Kevin Hall, CVAQ Director. "And throughout the Valley we experienced unhealthy levels of air pollution that exceeded the current health-based standard. Our Valley Air Board failed to protect people's health today. They have no effective warning system in place."

The Valley Air Board's prediction system for smog levels is based on readings that average the worst eight hours of any day, which masks the peak hours at which people are at highest risk. "Warnings need to be issued when smog levels enter the orange levels of 100 AQI," said Hall. "That is when human health is being damaged. Instead, our Valley Air Board refuses to act until it is well above 200 AQI, and today they failed to even do that much. It's unconscionable."

"We haven't seen a one-hour ozone violation in June since 2008," said Hall. "The month of May this year was the worst since 2008, too. It appears we are headed into a long, hot, very smoggy summer. While we wait -- and wait and wait -- for the Valley Air Board to clean our air, health advocates call on these officials to put in place an effective warning system."

Of the valley's 24 smog monitors, 20 violated the eight-hour standard. "From Tracy in San Joaquin County to Arvin in Kern County, from Hanford in Kings County to Sequoia National Park in Tulare County, the alarm should have been sounded today. How many of our valley's 4 million people were harmed?"

Sources: Real-time Air Advisory Network of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, go here.

California Air Resources Board's Air Quality and Meteorological System, go here.


Region shows rising number of unhealthy air days

  • WHO: Central Valley Air Quality Coalition
  • WHAT: Media Availability
  • WHERE: Wasco - contact Tom Frantz, 661-910-7734
    Fresno - CVAQ office, 1316 E. Olive (southwest corner of Olive and San Pablo, Fresno)
    WHEN: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2011  

The official close of summer last week brought to an end the smoggiest summer season in five years for San Joaquin Valley residents, according to the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition. Based on data from the valley air board website, the summer season beginning on June 21 and ending Sept. 23 shows an alarming trend of increasing numbers of unhealthy air days valley-wide, and pollution levels in hotspots such as Clovis in Fresno County, Three Rivers in Tulare County and Maricopa in Kern County have led to steep increases in the number of unhealthy air days.

Read more: Valley Summer Smog Worst in Five Years