Indio, California – Wednesday morning, Assemblymember V. Manuel Pérez, together with the Clinton Foundation Health Matters Initiative, held a stakeholder meeting at UCR Palm Desert to discuss Salton Sea air quality mitigation issues. Nearly 50 people attended the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, representing a range of entities, including local government agencies, community advocates, physicians and researchers, and air and water district representatives, among others.
“I’m very pleased to be joining forces with the Clinton Foundation Health Matters Initiative on this critical issue,” said Pérez during opening remarks. “The Foundation’s attention and interest in Salton Sea dust mitigation is very significant to help maintain momentum for local stakeholders working to prepare for and mitigate the air quality and human health impacts anticipated for communities in the Salton Sea air basin.”
The program included three panels moderated by Pérez, followed by an open discussion period. To create a context for the discussion, the first panel focused on Lake Owens, where dust mitigation efforts have been underway for decades after the draining of the lake in the 1920s. Mr. Ted Schade of Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District provided an overview of Lake Owens and its history, how the dust has impacted surrounding communities, and the current status and cost of dust mitigation efforts. He shared his opinion that the costs and effort for Salton Sea dust mitigation is likely to be three times greater than at Lake Owens.
Following that presentation, a second panel featured presentations by local air districts about current air pollution mitigation planning. Guest speakers were Mr. Bruce Wilcox, Imperial Irrigation District; Mr. Brad Poiriez, Imperial Valley Air Pollution Control District Office; and Dr. Phillip Fine, South Coast Air Quality Management District. The panelists discussed their work thus far to develop a coordinated, comprehensive approach to mitigate dust pollution from the Sea, including incorporating strategies used at Lake Owens.
During the third panel, air pollution experts discussed the health effects of particulate matter exposure. Featured panelists were Dr. Roya Bahreini, Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Science, Dept. of Environmental Sciences, UC Riverside; Dr. Emily Nelson, Health & Environmental Risk Consultant; and Dr. John Heydt, UC Riverside Senior Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs, School of Medicine, UC Riverside.
The final thirty minutes of the meeting allowed for open dialogue. Topics raised included the need to deploy more air monitoring stations across the valley to properly monitor dust pollution arising from the Sea, as well as the possibility of establishing a new air district to enable a more focused approach to mitigating dust at the Salton Sea.