Now that school is back in session, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is urging the public to minimize vehicle emissions associated with back-to-school traffic, such as idling when dropping off students, in order to successfully close a record-setting clean air summer season.
“Thanks to the vigilance and cooperation of residents and businesses throughout the Valley, we’ve had a great summer with regard to keeping ozone levels down,” said Seyed Sadredin, the District’s air pollution control office and executive director. “We urge the public to be even more mindful of their contributions to poor air quality during this crucial back-to-school window.”
Despite the fact that the summer encompassed triple-digit temperatures, multiple wildfires, and the continuation of the historic drought, the Valley still managed to maintain clean air, an unprecedented feat. This success of the season was made possible in part by times of good atmospheric dispersion from passing storms from May to July.
The Valley has continued to overcome various challenges in order to improve tremendously and continually set new records over the past 35 years. If it weren’t for the District’s control strategy through various attainment planning efforts, incentive programs, and commitment from stakeholders, this would not have been possible.
The District aims to ensure this clean air trend throughout the beginning of the school year, which usually triggers higher emission levels, by calling Air Alerts when conditions such as increased emissions, high temperatures, and stagnant air flow are favorable for ozone accumulation.
During an Air Alert, which can span over several days, residents and businesses are urged to reduce smog-forming emissions by driving less, refraining from idling their vehicles, carpooling or vanpooling and avoiding the use or drive-through services.
“Above all, try to limit vehicle idling,” said San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District spokesperson Anthony Presto. “With more awareness and participation, we should keep on track.”
When combined with higher temperatures and little to no air circulation, high emission levels have the possibility of exceeding federal air quality standards, as well as causing respiratory and heart problems, especially among children, the elderly and those with existing health concerns.
In addition to negative health effects, ozone violations can result in monetary penalties for Central Valley residents.
In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency fined the Central Valley $29 million for violating federal air-quality standards. Penalty fees can be assessed on businesses that are not using clean-air technology and practices.
In order to help mitigate the amount of pollution that is associated with school site vehicle idling, the District partnered with hundreds of Valley Schools with the Healthy Air Living Schools program, which gives schools the tools and materials they need to encourage parents to “Turn the Key & Be Idle Free” when picking up or dropping off students at school sites.
The program also trains schools on how to use the Real-time Air Advisory Network, which allows schools, parents, and Valley residents to check their current, localized air quality through by subscribing to RAAN.
For more information on these tools, visit valleyair.org/RAAN or valleyair.org/WAAQS. Residents can also check the dairy air quality forecast by calling 1-800-SMOG-INFO (766-4463).