Air pollution: where does it come from? There are myriad sources. Many have been referenced here in the “Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review” series and on the Air Quality Matters blog. On the stationary sources side, there is fuel combustion and fuel production, waste and power generation. Been there, done that.
Today’s post – the fifth and last in this series – highlights air pollution from commercial, industrial and residential sources.
Commercial – from “Garbage disposal: Rubbish not just for burning and dumping anymore” (Jan. 28):
In this post, positioned near the bottom, it turns out, there, in plainly and easily understandable text, is this message: “Handling refuse sustainably is a difficult and, yes, dirty job, but by doing such, in the long run, it could be well worth the extra effort. But more than that there is another benefit: Air is spared in the process from waste not being burned.”
With that, what this has to do with and how it ties in, there is much produced waste, obviously, and it demands attention. In response, waste is picked up, transported and dumped. That which is above and beyond what is commonly and regularly discarded and requires being handled separately, people may themselves elect to haul this waste to, say, a landfill, for disposal or they may pay to have it removed and disposed of by a commercial endeavor on a for-hire basis.
One example would be tree limb and stump removal. Very often those commercial entities providing these services have equipment that shreds or grinds tree limbs on site. The beauty of this is that it saves the green waste from being burned and that helps the air.
Next, in the many communities whose businesses offer drive-thru services, these can be facilitators of polluted air – it just depends.
From: “Great Western Cities ‘On-the-Air’ tour: San Luis Obispo, California” (Jul. 10):
“Now, not only has the buzzword notion of sustainability become a hit with town residents with practices like bike-sharing, car-sharing, and businesses sans drive-through windows at local eateries, pharmacies and what-not, surcharges on grocery-store-provided plastic and paper shopping bags, and sustainable development approaches with regard to in-town residential and commercial building and construction, but the university has caught the ‘green fever’ also. Cal Poly is one of the more green campuses in my opinion with its methane digester system for an on-site dairy and its adoption of and participation in community supported agriculture (CSA) and algae-to-biofuel conversion programs, these, of course, in the company of other related programs and practices.”
And from: “Groundbreaking fertilizer-based anti- air-pollution program launched” (Nov. 15):
“In ‘EDF [Environmental Defense Fund] launches initiative to reduce fertilizer pollution from commodity grain crops: Collaborative effort will improve water quality, cut GHGs and reduce supply chain risk,’ an EDF press release, made quite clear is: ‘Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has launched a new, collaborative initiative to eliminate fertilizer pollution as a major environmental concern in the United States. The effort will engage farmers and businesses throughout the supply chain to transform the way fertilizer-dependent grain crops are grown and sourced.’”
A few paragraphs later, written is: “Vice President of EDF, David Festa, in the release emphasized that in meeting a growing demand for food pollution must be decoupled from production, this being done ‘as soon as possible.’”
Industrial – from: “No slam dunk on spent American car batteries getting recycled sustainably – one year on” (Apr. 2):
“As Tim Johnson, a McClatchy Newspapers correspondent in: ‘As U.S. tightens rules on lead emissions, battery recycling has moved to Mexico,’ explained: ‘Mexico has won a leg up for a reason: Its lead emissions standards are one-tenth as stringent as U.S. standards. Mexican factories can ignore strict U.S. regulations that cap harmful lead emissions onto factory floors and into the air.’
“Meanwhile, in ‘No slam dunk on spent American car batteries getting recycled sustainably,’ I added: ‘Not a very comforting thought, especially when one considers, ‘Scientists now say that exposure to lead – even in minute quantities – can lead to cardiovascular disease, kidney damage and neurological disorders.”
“‘If this is, in fact, fact, it would seem U.S. car battery disposal would be handled in the most responsible way, which means also, the most sustainable way.’
“Not so, it seems, as according to article authors Jessica Garrison and Abby Sewall in the Los Angeles Times newsstory: ‘L.A. County to create toxic pollution ‘strike team’,’ it would appear the Exide battery recycling facility in Vernon, California is an emitter of toxic pollutants.”
The “strike team,” that includes fire department and health officials, prosecutors and others, was “assembled for the purpose of identifying county-based, toxic-pollutant emitters.” Based on what the L.A. Times authors in the article in question had written, it is my understanding the “Exide Technologies battery recycling plant in Vernon” was the first to be identified by the “team.”
Yet to be known are what cleanup remedies will be put into action.
“ … [T]he uncertainty of not knowing what lies ahead in terms of finding and implementing a mitigating resolution as I see it can do nothing but further compound matters. It could be that the instituted fix – provided there is one – could be comprehensive and thorough as in permanent closure of the plant or could involve something that is much more complex in nature,” I wrote.
Residential – from: “Groundbreaking fertilizer-based anti- air-pollution program launched” (Nov. 15):
“As a matter of fact, in regards to ag-acreage loss due to land transference for the purpose of providing a platform on which other types of development can occur, such is born out in an article I wrote that graced parts of two pages in the Mar. 2009 Vegetable Growers News issue, said article titled: ‘San Joaquin Valley deals with development.’
“Under the ‘Startling statistics’ article subhead, referred to was the America Farmland Trust study: ‘Paving Paradise: A New Perspective on California Farmland Conversion,’ under which included was an itemized list, two key points being:
- ‘More than half a million acres were urbanized during the 1990-2004 period, almost two-thirds of the state’s agricultural land
- ‘According to the study: ‘If sprawling development patter ns [sic] continue, another 2 million acres of California land will be paved over by 2050. If, however, the state as a whole develops land as efficiently as Sacramento County or the [San Francisco] Bay Area did in recent years, a million acres of California’s irreplaceable farmland could be saved.’1
“But, being formerly farmed land and then subsequently rezoned and to be used for residential, commercial, industrial purposes, such can, as well, be breeding grounds for contaminated air.”
How this can happen, maybe there will be increased motor vehicle use by residents related to their commuting to and from jobs. This has been a problem in many communities and regions and is a problem in other regions still.
Alternately, Smart Growth policies, practices and principles that place more reliance on walking, biking and public transit use could indeed have a positive effect in terms of emissions being lower compared to sprawled developmental patterns which may result in more motor vehicle miles of travel from community residents.
“With much farmland acreage having been taken out of production already – primarily through land fallowing due to ongoing and prolonged drought conditions, particularly in the U.S. west, not to mention that which has been rezoned for residential, commercial and industrial use – that, in and of itself, having a profound effect, learning about goals like those of the EDF’s mentioned above, is like a ray of sunshine poking through a cloud-filled sky,” this from the “Groundbreaking fertilizer-based anti- air-pollution program launched” post as well.
Moving on and less globally and more locally, at home and around the house, meanwhile, air pollution can come from home heating and cooking equipment and processes; chemical, paint, gasoline and cleaning solvents; and in a more global sense from residential neighborhood conceptualization to implementation (the path that such development follows).
What works for one, works for all?
In “EPA sued over LA’s, SJV’s alleged failure to meet fine particle standard” (Oct. 19), mentioned was a California Air Pollution Control Officers’ Association’s (CAPCOA) report and in it is a multi-pronged mitigating strategy consisting of:
“One: adoption of new regulations and enforcement of existing ones.
“Two: clean-technologies incentive-based programs and based on voluntary participation.
“Three: public/private efforts involving research and development, demonstration and deployment of clean-air technologies.
“Four: community outreach and education efforts aimed at informing constituents and emphasizing air-quality improvement and what constituents can do to help in this regard.”
And with that, this brings the “Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review – Stationary sources” series and the entire “Air Quality Matters – 2014 in review” series to a close.
Upper image above: Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Middle image above: NASA
This post was last revised on Nov. 12, 2018 @ 8:39 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.