By Linda MacKay, TCW President
The TriCounty Watchdogs have received a $25,000 grant for one year of air quality monitoring in the Frazier Mountain Communities.
"This is a big deal…" said Mar Preston, TriCounty Watchdog vice president.
A public meeting on Friday, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. at Cuddy Hall in Lake of the Woods will introduce the community to the air quality project. The following day, Saturday, Oct. 16 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (also at Cuddy Hall) community volunteers will be taught how they can participate in the air monitoring project.
The TriCounty Watchdogs have recruited nonprofit Global Community Monitor (GCM) to train them to conduct scientifically accurate air testing.
GCM has assisted grassroots groups in more than 25 countries to start air monitoring programs. They often use five gallon buckets to capture air quality in specific locations.
In the Frazier Mountain region, only limited air pollution data is available on local smog and particulate matter (PM 2.5). PM 2.5 is nearly invisible airborne particles that enter the lungs and have many impacts on health, from heart disease to asthma to diabetes.
The Watchdogs are especially interested to know more about the potential exposure of diesel soot for students who attend the schools along Interstate 5-El Tejon School and Frazier Mountain High School.
Neighborhoods near local stationary sources of air pollution are also of interest. Locations where diesel trucks park and idle for hours (such as Pilot-Flying J) have long been a serious concern for many local residents. Two other sources of potential air pollution whose emissions the Watchdogs hope to monitor are Pacific Custom Materials, the aggregate manufacturing plant in Lockwood Valley, and National Cement, southeast of Gorman, which uses petroleum coke and old tires for fuel.
"There are air toxins that local air districts and other agencies overseeing air quality aren’t willing or able to help communities identify. It’s important that communities learn to advocate for good air quality in their own communities. One of the first steps is understanding what’s in the air by monitoring it for themselves," said Denny Larson, executive director of GCM.
"We want to start our own ‘bucket brigade.’ The project will only be a success if we have enough people who are willing to help with the air quality monitors and keep logs of what they smell and see in the air," Preston said.
"If serious air pollution problems are identified, we can take steps to address the pollution and hopefully protect the health and well being of the people, plants and animals of our region," she added.
The Kern County Air Quality Mitigation Fund, sponsored by the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment is the source of the $25,000 grant.
This is part of the October 08, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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