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.