Worsened wintertime Calif., Valley air, more violation citations issued

A year ago on Mar. 3rd, I presented a year-to-year summary of air condition for the San Joaquin Valley from Nov. 1st to Feb. 28th, comparing the 2012-‘13 winter to winter 2011-‘12. This year, I thought I would provide a similar summary, but instead of just a two-year comparison, I thought I would make it three.

In last year’s summary, I was glad to report that improvement was considerable. This year, sadly, it seems the Valley is backpedaling.

Fireplace_Burning[1]For instance, in 2011-‘12, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District issued a total of 827 violations Valleywide, whereas in 2012-‘13, the air district issued a total of just 360.

According to the most recent air district data, in 2013-’14, the number of violation notices increased to 569 as did the number of wood-burning prohibitions – there were 376 total. Over the winter 2012-’13, the number of days wood-burning was restricted was 186. So, it is clear the condition of the air was much worse this past winter season compared to that in 2012-’13.

The air district reports: “Historically abnormal, severe meteorological conditions plagued the state and Central Valley this winter, resulting in a dramatic increase in wood-burning curtailments during the 11th Check Before You Burn residential wood-burning season.

“During the season, which began Nov. 1, 2013 and ended Friday, Feb. 28, the incidence of wood-burning curtailments throughout the eight-county air basin was up 102 percent over last winter. Check Before You Burn requires wood-burning curtailments on days when levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) are forecast to exceed the federal health standard. Wood-burning forecasts are issued daily for each county.”

Throughout the state the story seems little different.

“The picture was the same throughout California, as even coastal areas recorded high particulate levels,” the air district emphasized. “For example, San Luis Obispo recorded their highest PM2.5 levels on record, and other air basins experienced multiple days of exceedances and curtailments.”

What has happened is meteorological conditions have influenced the condition of Valley wintertime air to a considerable extent. This year, drought with well below normal rainfall coupled with stagnant air were contributing factors in all this. What this tells me is that it should not be left to the meteorological conditions alone to bring about improvement – significant or otherwise – in Valley air.

That being said, it should go without saying far more work is needed to bring Valley and California air to a state of healthy repair.

It remains to be seen what the story will be next year.

– Alan Kandel