The city of Delano held a meeting on January 24 to inform residents about air pollution, the air monitoring network, and how to protect vulnerable populations.
Sammie Meneses — Environmental Climate and Policy Advocate at Central California and the lead project person for the San Joaquin Valley Air and Air Network in Delano — said Bakersfield is one of the most polluted cities in the United States with PM2.5 and ozone. Fresno and Visalia are both second in being the most polluted with PM2.5.
PM2.5 is tiny particles in the air that reduce visibility and cause the air to appear hazy when levels are elevated.
“Most of the pollution is homegrown. Many people think it comes from the outside and it does but most of it comes from facilities, agriculture, oil and gas fields, diesel trucking, and even farming,” said Meneses. “So the main sources of the PM2.5 pollution are diesel trucks, farming, and the same thing with dairy farms and agriculture, especially within the fertilizer.”
There are three main contributors to air pollution in the San Joaquin valley which are PM2.5, ozone, and methane.
“Ammonia nitrate comes from the methane gases so that’s a pretty important thing because it’s agriculture. Another main source of PM is carbon emission and that includes trucks, cars, trains, and even when you’re at home and it’s cold and you put the fire on, that contributes to carbon omission as well as wood burning outside so that’s something to keep in mind,” said Meneses.
Meneses said pollution created by ozone comes from pesticides coming from agriculture, dairy farms, diesel trucks, and tractors. All this gets sucked into the ozone layer and that’s where greenhouse gas emission forms and the problem with greenhouse gas emission is that it stays stagnant and it’s in the atmosphere and we breathe it in.
Methane is one of the biggest contributors because methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Methane is 25 percent stronger than carbon dioxide, so reducing methane is very important to stop climate change and its effects.
The total Methane emissions in 2016 are equivalent to more than eight million cars driving for a year. Sources of methane consist of 54 percent of cattle dairies emission, 22 percent of landfills, and 10 percent of fugitive emissions from oil and gas.
“PM2.5 is tinier than PM10 which is dust pollen and mold, and it’s a diameter of a human hair and the thing is when you’re not able to see what you’re breathing it’s very scary,” said Meneses. “So the fact that we can’t even see that in there is just a representation of why it’s important to keep monitoring the PM2.5 and the levels in there so that way we can better protect ourselves using masks and seeing what the healthier quality is.”
The health impacts of PM2.5 are bronchitis, asthma attacks, and other respiratory problems. A lot of it is correlated with an increase in ER visits due to health or lung problems and this may also increase the risk of heart attacks, cardiac arrest, or premature death.
“Ozone or smog, I’m sure it’s familiar to pretty much everyone, you might see it when you’re driving through all that haze in the morning,” said Meneses.
The health effects of ozone are that asthma causes lung inflammation, increases vulnerability to infections, and may impede the proper development of children’s lungs. When the lungs in children are supposed to be growing, this can actually reduce that or stop it which then causes more issues.
“Another statistic is that compared to the national average children in the San Joaquin Valley are twice as likely to be diagnosed with us before the age of 18 which is a huge issue so it’s important to protect the little ones,” said Meneses.
Gustavo Aguirre who is the new Director for Climate and Environmental Justice said part of the reason they are here is to talk about the air quality and the benefits of the community and AB617.
AB617, which is a program that was a law that passed in 2018, is designated to provide around $80 million a year to the communities. Their sole purpose is to do air monitoring, understand the air pollution of the community, and develop programs called CERP — the Community Emission Reduction Program.
“AB617 chooses communities from across the state and the goal is to have different communities within the first five years and we are in year three here in the San Joaquin Valley,” said Aguirre. “We have the communities of Arvin and Lamont who are part of AB617 and also Shafter, Stockton, and south central Fresno. All those communities are the only ones in the San Joaquin Valley that are part of AB617 programs. So in approximation $30 million have gone to these communities to help them develop strategies to reduce emissions.”
The money comes from the state to support these communities to develop strategies to better the air quality.
Here in Delano, CERP, the Central California Environmental Justice Network (CCEJN), and the Delano Guardians have signed two letters nominating Delano as a community to receive this support from the state.
“What we want to do here is take a step before that and create our own community emissions program so by the time they consider us we as a community have at large a plan together and so that is one of the purposes of us being here,” said Aguirre.
An example of a city that has benefited from this money is Shafter. The Shafter community air program helped by providing regulatory air monitors. Some of the places are the farm labor center, Sequoia Elementary, Shafter DMV, Golden Oaks Elementary, and Grimmway Elementary.
In Delano, one of the benefits is the San Joaquin Valley Air Network monitors that are located at Cecil Avenue Middle School that determine the air quality.
“There are eleven monitors and so we are ahead of the game. We have community air monitors but the goal is to have regulatory air monitors because if the air regulatory monitors trigger something they will act faster,” said Aguirre.
Aguirre said the wind patterns in Shafter made it to where all the sources of industrial pollution accumulated there and then went down south to cities like Delano.
“So what they saw is hot spots in the community and so right now the community of Shafter got one million dollars to install barriers in the community,” said Aguirre. “They are voting on where to install these barriers to prevent pollution from the railroad, Lerdo Highway, or agricultural areas and so the air monitoring gave insight to where barriers can be best used in the community.”
Aguirre said one of the neat things about this air monitoring plan is that they get weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports of the air quality. So these are some of the benefits that residents of the communities can get from implementing air monitoring plans.
“We have been nominating Delano every year and we’re hoping Delano is selected in the near future and what we want to do is anticipate that and develop a framework of what would work for Delano,” said Aguirre.
The next air monitoring meeting will be on February 28 at Ellington Community Center, 925 Ellington Street Delano, CA, 93215.