Valley air quality expected to suffer as school starts

FRESNO, Calif.

Next week's increase in traffic prompted the air pollution district to issue the season's first air alert.

The Air Pollution Control District is asking people not to idle their cars while dropping off and picking up students. That may be tough for some parents waiting in 100-degree heat.

The high heat only adds to the Valley's poor air quality, and with cars full of kids ready to line up for the start of school the Valley Air Pollution Control District has issued an air alert for Monday and Tuesday.

"Back to school time is a time historically when we do see elevated ozone levels and that is correlated and we've found that statistically it correlates with with back to school traffic. You've got more traffic on the road. You've got people idling their cars," Janelle Schneider of the Air Pollution Control District said.

The district is asking parents to car pooland turn off their engines while waiting for students. People are also asked to reduce their use of drive-through windows. But Kevin Hall of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition says the board has ignored several unhealthy air days this year.

"The Valley Air Board is doing too little too late. We should have had at least 30 air alerts this summer," Hall said.

Hall referred to an air quality graph which ranges from green, which is good, to purple - very unhealthy.

"The valley air board is issuing air alerts only when we reach this upper bar, this upper level which is well over 200 on the air quality index," Hall said.

Hall's message to the air board: "You need to be issuing health warnings or air alerts on the days on which 100 AQI will be excceded."

"Air alerts are not tied to a specific number on the air quality index," Schneider said.

The orange level at 100 on the air quality index is unhealthy for sensitive groups. Schneider said the air alert was issued to prevent the ozone level from escalating.

If the valley exceeds the federal ozone standard it could face a $29 million fine. Part of that fine would be paid by Valley drivers through a $12 fee added to DMV registrations.

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