They’re Fed Up in Arvin and Doing Something About It

It's What You Don't See

It's What You Don't See: Fotolia

You may remember from a previous post that the California Air Resources Board relocated an air monitor which had been collecting data for the last 20 years.  Results showed that Arvin had the worst smog in the United States.

The station is now set up at a location where the stink index on the monitor gives them better numbers.

Arvin’s Committee for a Better Arvin have grown fed up watching the Air Resources Board delay and delay enforcing federal standards. None of the polluters live in Arvin, home to a predominantly low-income Latino population.

Some of Arvin’s problems come from its location at the bottom of the San Joaquin Valley. Where does the air pollution go then? It doesn’t disappear.  Instead a fair share of  the smog drifts upward, channeled by the Grapevine pass to waft over the Frazier Mountain communities.

Both the Committee for a Better Arvin and the mountain communities’ TriCounty Watchdog groups are doing something to fight back.  They’re tired of  being the recipients of more than their fair share of air pollution.

Both communities have partnered with Global Community Monitor (GCM), an environmental air monitoring nonprofit which has done community-driven projects all over the world. The concept is that non-scientists can be trained to systematically obtain readings from a relatively simple piece of equipment and send filters or actual bags containing a sample of air to a lab for scientific testing providing data that is compatible with state and federal standards.

Linda Mackay is TriCounty Watchdogs’ president and a long-time quality activist who got mad about environmental injustice while living in Alpaugh, CA in the San Joaquin Valley.  Trained by Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment, Mackay pushed for the mountain’s first temporary monitor from the California Air Resources Board, and located it in Lebec.  During the year that the monitor was placed in Lebec, ozone measured as bad or worse than Bakersfield.  That’s bad.

Tejon Ranch also sited a air monitor for three years so they could prepare for their required environmental documents to prepare for their huge planned housing development (Tejon Mountain Village) in Lebec. The Tejon Ranch air monitor also showed the smog is severe in Lebec.  Some air pollutants are more damaging at smaller amounts at higher elevations where there is less oxygen.   The mountain communities has had limited air monitoring.  There are a lot of unanswered questions about our air quality.

The Watchdog’s have concerns about air pollution hot spots around Interstate 5. Data collected by CalTrans have counted 18,000 diesel trucks flowing through the Grapevine every single day. Watchdogs have been dogging the El Tejon Unified School Board for about nine months to allow them to site a monitor on the grounds of El Tejon Middle School,  which is situated about one hundred yards from the freeway.  Several scientific studies have shown proximity to car and diesel traffic increases the risk of asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Since 2004, schools are not allowed to build closer than 500 feet to major roadways.  There are nasty small particulates, the ultrafines that invisibly drift off freeway vehicles that easily pass into the respiratory systems and the bodies of those who are working and playing nearby.  The young and elderly are most vulnerable to this kind of pollution.

The school board has just formally voted down the Watchdog’s request. Since March Mackay has put the air monitor on the top of her car for a 24-hour period every six days to follow GCM’s protocol. The monitor is near but not on the school grounds.

If any of you out there are listening to the daily report of air quality by the media and watching your kid gasping with asthma or an old person bent over coughing, don’t expect the authorities to act quickly to correct the condition.  Their record  is dismal when it comes to making the huge cuts in pollution that we need them to make.

Why is this?  Are they protecting the polluters who pay big taxes, incapable, or simply helpless?

Arvin and the Frazier mountain communities are small communities who have decided they can’t wait around for the air quality regulators to help them know what’s in the air that surrounds them.  For more information on how to start your own “bucket brigade” contact the Committee for a Better Arvin at 661-854-3000, or the TriCounty Watchdog at http://www.tcwdogs.org/

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