Why reporting accurately air quality information is crucial

Exhibit A

In The Fresno Bee article: “Valley air officials aim to cool down decades-old smog problem,” environmental reporter Mark Grossi wrote: “In sweltering September 2011, Fresno could have used more trees. Temperatures climbed, winds died and lung-searing ozone spiked the season’s highest readings on three days.

“Worse yet, all three peaks broke the one-hour federal ozone standard between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays when children were outside after school.”

Exhibit B

Meanwhile, in the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (District) document: “Report to the Community 2013-14 Edition” (Report), I found this:

SMOG_-_NARA_-_542581.tif[1]“The attainment test for the 1-hour ozone standard of 0.12 parts per million is based on the number of exceedance days per year, averaged over a three-year period. In other words, if an air monitoring site has three or fewer exceedance days in a three-year period, then it meets the standard. If a single site violates the standard, the entire San Joaquin Valley is then in violation of the 1-hour ozone standard.”

To this the District in the Report added: “Special issues such as transboundary ozone from Asia, the District’s ozone saturation study to address the Arvin monitoring station relocation, and an exceptional event whereby the Valley experienced an exceedance of the 1-hour ozone standard due to a large industrial fire and wildfires will also be addressed.”

Exhibit C

So, on Feb. 5, 2013 in “A California air quality progress report” I wrote: “The two regions with the highest concentrations of ozone and particle pollution are the South Coast and San Joaquin Valley air basins.

“CAPCOA [California Air Pollution Control Officers Association] in its [April] 2012 [‘California’s Progress Toward Clean Air’] report, provides summary data regarding each of the state’s 35 air districts.

“In the San Joaquin Valley, for example, during summer 2011, there were far fewer ozone exceedance days of the federal one-hour standard (a total of three) than there were in both 1996 when there were 56 and in 2002 when the Valley experienced 30.”

It should be noted and to reiterate, this is according to CAPCOA in its April 2012 report.

Exhibit D

Now enter the District document on August 15, 2013 titled: “Item #7: Update on Ozone Air Quality Progress and Air Alert Initiative.” This document appears to be number 7 of a series.

On page 7 which is titled: “1-hour Ozone Progress,” there are three bullet points, the middle one worded as such: “2012: 3 days over standard, 7 hours over standard.” On the following page (page 8) the title of which is: “1-hour Ozone Progress (cont’d)” displayed is a graph and at the top of the graph there is this notation: “# of Days with Exceedances Somewhere in Valley.”

From the bar graph (the bars themselves colored blue), the relationship is such that the bar for year 2012 (the last year shown) is shorter than the bar for year 2011. If the bar for year 2012 represents 3 exceedance days of the 1-hour ozone standard, then by the process of deductive reasoning the bar for year 2011 would be greater than 3 exceedance days. How much greater in my opinion cannot be determined because no numerical values are assigned to the bars themselves, but it is clearly less than 5 exceedances. For what it is worth, the length of the bar for year 2011 appears to match exactly the length of the bar for year 2007.

Then there is the supporting data on page 11 in the form of a table, the page heading reading: “County 1-Hour Ozone Exceedances.”

The number of “County-Days” exceeding the one-hour ozone standard for the years given are as follows:

  • 2007 – 3
  • 2011 – 3
  • 2012 – 2

However, as it has to do with Fresno County, in the 2012 column there is an asterisk next to the number 2. And under the table in question there is this explanation: “*Exceptional Event pending for exceedance day.”

Closing statement

All of this seems more than a little confusing. As I see it, there is, based on the information presented, some disagreement regarding the referenced reporting of one-hour ozone standard air quality data for the San Joaquin Valley for years 2011 and 2012.

It goes without saying agreement in this respect is crucial.

Finally, for some additional perspective, since 2010, Valley motorists and Valley-based business owners have been on the hook to pay an annual $29 million penalty as per federal law all on account of violation of the one-hour ozone health standard. The fine is lifted if the standard is met. More importantly, meeting the standard is a reflection of area air improving. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is tasked with making the determination that the Valley is or is not in attainment.

Image above: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

– Alan Kandel

This post was last revised on Feb. 24, 2020 @ 3:25 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.