Drought Contributes to Record Pollution Levels in California

3/8/2014 9:40:22 AM

The drought in California has led to a record-tying surge in air pollution levels across the state, air quality officials said.

The unseasonably stagnant conditions, with low rainfall and wind, have trapped pollution near the ground and evoked memories of California's smog-filled past after a decade of concerted air quality improvements.

The San Joaquin Valley surpassed federal standards for fine particulate matter for 66 days, making it the most polluted area in the state. The San Francisco Bay Area saw 15 bad air days this winter, the highest number in seven years. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District also banned residential wood burning for a record-tying 30 days -- three times last year's number -- while the South Coast Air Quality Management District banned it for 16 days, more than three times last year's number.

Smog over Los Angeles, California. (Credit: Flickr/Steven Buss)

Penny Newman, head of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice in Riverside County, questioned the effectiveness of the wood-burning ban at reducing pollution levels. She said it "seems just a drop in the bucket" compared with industrial sources of pollution in the area like trucks and trains (Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times, March 4).

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500.

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