H-CENTRAL COAST

Apr 28, 2011 1:07 AM by Danielle Lerner

SLO and SB Counties get failing grade for air quality

The American Lung Association's annual "State of the Air" report gives our two counties failing grades.

Both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties were given an "F" grade for high ozone days. As for particle pollution, San Luis Obispo County received an "A," Santa Barbara County got a "B."

Looking at the clear skies over parts of the Central Coast it is hard to believe we scored a failing grade in this year's "State of the Air" report.

"I think we got the best air quality in the nation," said Victor Abbley, who lives in Pismo Beach.

"Most people move up here for the air quality," said Tammy Green, a home health care nurse.

Then there is Claud Evans, who has C.O.P.D., a fairly common breathing disorder. He moved from Visalia to Grover Beach to help his breathing.

"I really have a hard time believing that," said Evans.

However San Luis Obispo County's Air Pollution Control District says the scores are not what they seem.

"Their grading system presents a false image of what true air quality is," said Larry Allen, executive director of the APCD.

Allen says the American Lung Association calculates its grades based on the number of federal air quality standard violations in one year. He says three or more violations lead to an "F" grade.

"An area like the San Joaquin vValley that might have 150 violations in a year, versus an area like San Luis Obispo that might have 4 or 5, are given the same grade," Allen said.

Still, Allen admits there is always room for improvement.

"I think I would give us a 'B' for ozone and probably in the south county, we certainly get an 'F' for particulate matter, there's no doubt in my mind about that," Allen said.

On the bright side, San Luis Obispo County ranked first for cleanest metropolitan area in the country when it comes to that 24-hour particle pollution reading. Santa Barbara County ranked 149 out of 277 metropolitan areas.

To see a fully copy of the American Lung Association's report, or to check out the air quality in your area, just head to ksby.com and click on Newslinks.

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