SLO County receives poor grade in "State of the Air" report - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

SLO County receives poor grade in "State of the Air" report

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The 2017 State of the Air report put San Luis Obispo County on the map, but not for a good reason.

The report measures air quality nationally and grades counties based on data collected over a three-year period, in this specific report, for 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The grading is broken up into three categories: ozone, short-term particle pollution, and annual particle pollution. According to the American Lung Association, which conducts the report, San Luis Obispo County ranked tenth for the most polluted county in the nation under the annual particle pollution category.

Looking outside at the clear skies, it’s hard to see the particles that impact the quality of our air. For the most part, Larry Allen, Executive Director of the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution District, says everything looks good.

“For 90 percent of the county, we have really good air quality,” Allen said.

However, according to the American Lung Association, for data collected from 2013-2015, SLO County received an “F” grade for ozone. However, that doesn’t impact everyone in the county.  

Will Barrett, the senior policy analyst with the American Lung Association in California, calls ozone “summertime smog.”

Allen says the biggest hit to the ozone grade comes from the east county, particularly the Red Hills area.

“It's a result of transported pollution from the San Joaquin Valley and from other areas further north and further south," Allen said.

The SLO County Air Pollution District has ten different gauges throughout the county that pick up the data. From that data collected, the county received a “D” grade in short-term particle pollution, which comes from emissions like diesel fuel and wood burning.

Barrett says there’s a variety of natural phenomena that bring the state to that grade.

"Around the state, we saw wildfires, we saw the impacts of the drought and other factors, all increasing particle pollution levels," he said.

However, Allen wants to clear the air on where the problem areas are within the county.

“Actually, the problem occurs down in the Nipomo Mesa area as a result of fine particulate matter coming off the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area," Barrett said.

When it comes to federal health guidelines, Barrett says annual particle pollution should be below 12.0 micrograms per cubic meter of monitored air. The latest report placed SLO County just above the cusp at 12.1 mg, moving up from last year’s grade of 11.9 mg.

Allen says if there’s one thing the public should know, it’s that the difference between the two reports wasn’t big.

"We moved from a pass-fail grade in their report but the change in air quality was not that significant," Allen said.

Allen says if next year’s report shows improved grading, it will likely be due to meteorological factors.

Santa Barbara County received an “F” for its ozone grade, but got an “A” in the short-term particle pollution category, and passed for annual particle pollution.

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