2010 March 2: CA Bakersfield (Kern County): District says no-burn days improved air quality

2010 March 2: CA Bakersfield (Kern County): District says no-burn days improved air quality

BY STEVEN MAYER, Californian staff writer
smayer@bakersfield.com | Tuesday, Mar 02 2010 06:32 PM

Last Updated Tuesday, Mar 02 2010 06:32 PM


The annual "Check Before You Burn" wood-burning season ended Sunday in Kern County with fewer no-burn days than last year and continued improvement in the valley’s winter air quality, according to data released Tuesday by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
During the 2009-2010 wood-burning season, which runs from Nov. 1 through the end of February, valley areas of Kern County saw 41 days when fireplace use was prohibited — compared to 54 days last season.
Air district officials praised valley residents for their cooperation and willingness to take part in the effort, though nearly 500 citations — 64 in Kern — were handed out to valley residents who burned on restricted days.
The annual winter program restricts residential wood-burning in an effort to prevent the build-up of dangerous fine-particulate matter known as PM 2.5, which has been linked to chronic lung disease, respiratory illness, heart attacks and premature death.
From November through February, forecasts are issued daily by the district to determine whether open-hearth fireplaces, wood stoves or inserts, or pellet stoves may be used in the eight counties that comprise the district. This was the seventh season since the rule was adopted by the air district in 2003.
District officials believe the program is more effective at reducing wintertime pollution than all other regulations imposed on valley businesses.
"This is a great example of how we can achieve major reductions in air pollution without having to resort to cost-prohibitive regulations on businesses," Seyed Sadredin, the district’s executive director, said in a release.
Sadredin credits the restricted burning measure for bringing about "major improvements in Valley’s air quality."
This season, there was a 57 percent decrease in the number of unhealthy days valleywide compared with the 2008-2009 season. In addition, the number of days that exceeded the federal health standard for fine-particulate pollution declined by 41 percent over last year.
To top it off, this season’s progress came on the heals of the 2008-2009 season when the valley experienced one of the cleanest winters on record, according to the air district.
Although Sadredin didn’t mention this season’s higher than normal rainfall as a factor in the valley’s improved winter air quality, it’s sure to be a positive factor.
District spokeswoman Jaime Holt said the district is conducting a comprehensive assessment of the seasonal data. A detailed report analyzing the effectiveness of the no-burn rule and other factors — including weather — that may have contributed to the air quality improvements will be presented at a public hearing April 15 in Fresno, she said.
Residential wood-burning is prohibited when fine-particulate pollution is forecasted to be above 30 micrograms per cubic meter, Holt said. Following a rule change last year, agricultural burning has been restricted at a similar threshold.

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