Valley Air District to Issue Air Alert Monday

Aug 16, 2013
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has announced that it intends to issue an "Air Alert" early next week. The alert will begin Monday August 19th and continue through Wednesday August 21st. 

This district is urging residents to take steps that can reduce the amount of ozone pollution, and prevent a potential violation of the 1-hour ozone standard. In addition to health risks posed by ozone pollution, violating the standard could also result in a $29 million federal penalty.

Bill to Increase Air Pollution Fines Moves Forward

Aug 13, 2013
Valley Public Radio

A bill that would increase fines for big air polluters in California is now headed to the Assembly floor. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, it was drafted in response to the Chevron oil refinery fire in Richmond last year.

The Chevron oil refinery fire forced 15,000 people to seek medical help. Under current law such a violation would result in a $10,000 fine. Democratic Senator Loni Hancock says the legislation she’s authored would increase the fine to $100,000.

Fight Over Alleged Radioactive Waste Involves Kern County Landfills

Aug 7, 2013

Consumer Watchdog and other environmental groups have filed suit against Boeing and the California Department of Toxic Substance Control over what they claim is the illegal disposal of low-level radioactive waste from a retired Boeing facility in Ventura County.

The groups allege that the demolition of potentially contaminated buildings at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory near Simi Valley is a threat to public health, and a violation of the state’s environmental laws.

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency says California is violating the Safe Drinking Water Act. EPA says the state’s Department of Public Health has failed to spend nearly a $500 million in federal money to provide safe drinking water. It’s estimated the state will have to spend $40 billion over the next two decades to fix the problem.  As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, some lawmakers are outraged by what they see as a bureaucratic nightmare within the Department.

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

More than 600 communities in California rely on contaminated groundwater. Nowhere is the problem more acute than in the Tulare Lake Basin and the Salinas Valley.  It’s estimated that a quarter of a million people there rely on groundwater contaminated with nitrates, including some of the poorest people in the state. In the first of two stories, Amy Quinton reports on how one community struggles to deal with the problem. 

Valley Public Radio

More than 15,000 people sought medical help from air pollution after the Chevron oil refinery fire in Richmond last year.

As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, several lawmakers say polluters should pay more for air quality violations.

Under current law, the maximum penalty for air quality violations is only $25,000 even when negligence can be demonstrated.

Democratic Senator Loni Hancock says in cases like the Chevron oil refinery fire, it should be more. She represents the Bay area where she says the average fine for a violation is just $500.

CA Water Resources Control Board

The State Water Resources Control Board is recommending that California fund efforts to mitigate nitrate pollution through a statewide fee on fertilizer.

In a report to the Legislature, the board said that groundwater nitrate pollution in the Tulare Lake Basin and Salinas Valley is likely to get worse in the future, and a dedicated funding stream is needed to address the problem.

Agricultural fertilizer and confined animal facilities are considered some of the top sources of nitrate pollution.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

More than half of California's population relies on a contaminated drinking water supply – though most communities blend or treat their water to make it safe.  Ben Adler has more from Sacramento on that finding in a new state report out this week.

The report by the State Water Resources Control Board was ordered by the state Legislature.  It says from 2002 to 2010, 680 out of 3,000 community water systems in the state relied on one or more contaminated groundwater wells.  Those contaminated wells served 21 million people.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The San Joaquin Valley’s polluted air is a daily concern for Mario Talavera.

“When I go to the pharmacy, they ask why I need medicine," said Talavera, of Fresno. "For Mario, Angelica, Tomas, Jose. And for me too, Mario. I have asthma. The only person who doesn’t have asthma is my wife.”

It’s a constant stress for Fresno resident Teresa Vidales, too. Her husband, a construction worker and the family breadwinner, has asthma. One of her four kids does, too.

California Department of Public Health

Two hazardous waste facilities in the San Joaquin Valley led the state in toxic chemical releases in 2011, according to a report released today by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Clean Harbors landfill in Buttonwillow in western Kern County ranked number one in the state in toxic releases, with nearly 10 million pounds in 2011. In Kings County, Chemical Waste Management’s Kettleman City disposal facility released nearly four million pounds in 2011, which ranked third in the state.