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In the News

29
Nov

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

Health advocates throughout the San Joaquin Valley will appear before county boards of supervisors and city councils in early December to seek support for an effective Emergency Air Alert system. The community-based organizations are members of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition's “Stand for Clean Air in the San Joaquin Valley" project. The valley-wide educational effort seeks to foster local discussion of air pollution impacts and health risks.

Advocates want county-wide emergency air alerts issued for orange, red and purple flag days. Orange flag days are when “sensitive groups" are at risk of being harmed, and more than 60 percent of the Valley's 4 million residents fall into that category, according to data from the Central California Health Policy Institute and California Health Interview Survey.

“Last year, on anywhere from 53 days per year in the northern counties to 117 days in the south, most people were at risk of being harmed, but they were not warned," said Sarah Sharpe, Steering Committee Chair of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition and the Environmental Health Program Director of Fresno Metro Ministry, Fresno County. In 2011, only a few Emergency Air Alerts were issued for ozone, and not a single warning was issued for particulate matter pollution.

 

"The health of our children must come first. They are the most vulnerable people in our community. The absence of a basic warning system is really unforgiveable," said Maricela Mares-Alatorre, long-time Kettleman City resident, mother and representative of El Pueblo/People for Clean Air and Water of Kettleman City, Kings County.

Responsibility for air-pollution-related public health warnings lies with the Valley Air Board, the governing body of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. The 15-member board consists of 13 local politicians from throughout the region, plus a doctor and atmospheric scientist appointed by the governor.

“Unfortunately, the current warning system is terribly flawed," said Laura Baker, staff attorney, Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment, Delano, Kern County. “The Valley Air Board members are ignoring their mandate to protect people's health."

The Valley Air Board's current policy is to only issue emergency health warnings when either smoke or dusty conditions are dangerous, or when summertime ozone levels are extremely high. There are no emergency warnings issued on days when federal health-protective standards for fine particulate pollution or ozone pollution will be surpassed.

“The federal health standard is being violated on every orange, red and purple flag day," said Betsy Reifsnider, Environmental Justice Director, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Stockton, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. “With 60 percent of the population at serious risk of harm, emergency warnings should clearly be issued beginning at the orange level."

 

Full copies of the presentation are available upon request. Public presentations will be given to:

 

Fresno County Board of Supervisors, Dec. 4

Media Contact: Sarah Sharpe, Fresno Metro Ministry, 559-355-8933

Walter Ramírez, Community Advocate, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, 916-806-1930

 

Kern County Board of Supervisors, Dec. 4

Media Contact: Laura Baker, Center on Race, Poverty & The Environment, 802-318-3053

 

Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, Dec. 4

Media Contact: Betsy Reifsnider, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Stockton, 916-296-8099

Rosenda Mataka, Grayson Neighborhood Council 209-895-3352

 

Kings County Board of Supervisors, Dec. 11

Media Contact: Maricela Mares-Alatorre, People for Clean Air and Water, 559-816-9298

 

Bakersfield City Council, Dec. 11

Media Contact: Laura Baker, Center on Race, Poverty & The Environment, 802-318-3053

 

Arvin City Council, Dec. 18

Media Contact: Salvador Partida, Committee for a Better Arvin, 661-854-7000

Who We Are

For Immediate Media Inquiries, Contact:
Dolores Barajas-Weller, Director
Central Valley Air Quality Coalition
559-442-4771



About the Organization

Founded in 2003, the Fresno-based Central Valley Air Quality Coalition (CVAQ) 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.



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