Air pollution in Tulare County rises as students go back to school

Air Pollution Control District notes increase in vehicle emissions as school is back in session

@TheSunGazette

TULARE COUNTY – For parents the summer months when kids were off school was a nice break from the regular morning routine. Instead of throwing the kids in the car and shuttling them off to school, parents were able to head off to work unimpeded.

Now that school is back in, it is back to the grind. Morning waits at the car port to drop off the little ones, picking them up and sometimes just trying to find some street parking. Knowing that idling cars create more pollution that cars in motion the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is trying to keep parents aware of the spike in ozone.

The Valley Air District is asking the public to reduce vehicle emissions by carpooling or walking their children to school and to refrain from vehicle idling during school pick-ups and drop-offs.  Triple-digit temperatures and multiple wildfires may begin to impact Valley air quality over the weekend and into next week, and the public’s help is crucial in reducing the risk of spikes in ground-level ozone and exceeding federal air quality standards.
“Thanks to the vigilance and cooperation of residents and businesses throughout the Valley, we continue to see improvements in air quality every summer,” said Seyed Sadredin, the District’s air pollution control officer 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.”

Valley air quality has shown tremendous improvement over the past several summer ozone seasons compared to many years ago, and has continually set new improvement records over the past 35 years. These improvements would not be possible without the success of the District’s control strategy through its various attainment planning efforts, its robust incentive programs, and the commitment from Valley stakeholders doing their part to reduce emissions as much as possible.

To ensure that these clean air trends continue during the Back-to-School season, the Valley Air District may call for the public to take action when conditions such as increased emissions, high temperatures and stagnant air flow are favorable for ozone accumulation. Residents and businesses are urged to reduce vehicle emissions by driving less, refraining from idling their vehicles, carpooling or vanpooling and avoiding the use of drive-through services. Other measures, such as shifting ozone-creating activities, including lawn maintenance to early mornings, can also help offset rising ozone levels.

To help minimize pollution associated with school site vehicle idling, the District has partnered with hundreds of Valley schools through the Healthy Air Living Schools program. The program gives schools tools and materials to encourage parents to “Turn the Key & Be Idle Free” when picking up or dropping off students.

In addition, the program trains schools on how to use the Real-time Air Advisory Network (RAAN) and Real-time Outdoor Activity Risk (ROAR) Guidelines.  Schools, parents or any Valley resident can check current, localized air quality by subscribing to RAAN, which links a computer or iPhone app to any air monitoring station in the District’s Valley-wide network. Hourly, automated emails are delivered when air quality is changing.

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