Earth Log: Air pollution control district defends bad-air alert system
Remember all the fuss last year about the $29 million annual dirty-air fine — $12 a year in your vehicle registration fees? A local activist and the Valley air district’s leaders again are debating the dirty air part of the equation.
Last Friday, an intense ozone episode triggered a one-hour violation in Parlier. One more of these peak violations in Parlier this summer would extend the annual fine through 2014.
Violations at the Fresno and Clovis monitors also would do the same thing, so it will be a nervous summer.
But activist Kevin Hall of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition says he is more concerned about public health. Hall said the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District board has not done enough to notify the public when a problem this bad arises.
He said the Valley air board needs to lower its threshold for special alerts and not rely on the usual ways of communicating bad-air days.
But district executive director Seyed Sadredin says no other air authority in the nation has a warning system as elaborate as the Valley’s. The district uses email, texts and online updates on air-quality changes throughout the day.
The district also forecasts bad-air days, telling the public daily through media outlets and its website.
The district’s website, which provides the continuous updates, was being serviced Friday. But updates continued despite the work being done on the website, Sadredin said.
The bad day in Parlier was unusual, he added. This sort of ozone peak would typically happen in August or September when school traffic picks up. He said the problem Friday was another indication that school-related traffic and heat are key factors.
Indeed, the 104-degree heat and high ozone created a rare and miserable day for early June.
Hall noted 20 of 24 monitors showed air violated the other major federal ozone standard — the eight-hour or day-long standard. He said a special announcement should have gone out for the Valley’s nearly 4 million people from San Joaquin County to Kern County.
“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,” he said.
Sadredin said the district’s approach to notifying the public is based on years of experience aimed at encouraging air-friendly behavior as well as urging people to protect themselves on bad-air days.
“Public-opinion surveys and air-quality data show that the district approach has been effective,” he said.
That bad Friday
The nation’s most prestigious state track meet — the CIF State Track and Field Championships — opened on that dirty-air Friday at Buchanan High School in Clovis. Athletes competed in the nation’s worst air quality, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Ozone is a corrosive gas that often reaches its peak in the late afternoon in the Valley. Ozone triggers asthma and other lung problems.
On Friday, EPA’s AIRnow site advised: “Active children and adults, and people with lung disease, such as asthma, should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors. Everyone else, especially children, should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.”