EL CENTRO — The Imperial County Air Pollution Control District and Comite Civico del Valle held an informational workshop Wednesday, June 19, at the Imperial Valley Mall. Visitors had the opportunity to speak to air quality and community experts about ideas and plans addressing local air pollution and discuss community-level monitoring and emission reduction projects within the Calexico-Heber-El Centro corridor.
Some of the workshop booths included the School Flag Program (SFP), where presenter and community worker Brittany Blanco informed guests about elementary school students’ safety. Through the SFP, schools will raise a flag every day alerting the community to the quality of air present.
For example, if the flag is green, the air quality is good, if the flag is yellow, the air quality is acceptable, if the flag is red, the air quality is unhealthy. SFP helps manage exposure to unhealthy air and aid in reducing asthma episodes. When the air quality is bad, people can modify their activities or move them indoors in order to protect their health.
Local communities can visit the website www.IVAN-Imperial.org for more information on air quality and updates every five minutes.
The AB 617: Draft Community Emissions Reduction Program was presented by consulting engineering group Ramboll representative Alek VanHoughton who discussed the developing projects in the El Centro, Heber, and Calexico communities. In 2017, a state law known as AB 617 was passed with the objective of improving air quality at the local level in selected California communities facing disproportionate air quality burdens. The El Centro-Heber-Calexico corridor was selected as one of the communities and was tasked with creating a Community Emissions Reduction Program (CERP), identifying targets and implementing strategies to improve air quality and satisfy health-based objectives.
Part of the project will include parking lot paving approved for the Calexico Unified District in late 2018, which is expected to reduce emissions of fugitive dust in the area, benefitting the local environment and mitigating human exposure to harmful particulate matter pollutants. Other projects include school air filtration, a new indoor system that will be installed in Calipatria Unified School District, reducing student and staff exposure to PM 2.5, a fine dust particle pollutant, as well as other harmful air pollutants such as black carbon, allergens, and certain viral and bacterial pathogens. The selected high-performance filters can be installed on existing HVAC systems or as standalone units.
Part of this project will include implementation of an enhanced enforcement program to identify and repair trucks and buses with faulty emission control systems, elevate truck routes in the community, and administer incentive funding programs for alternative fuel or zero-emission bus/municipal vehicles.
“AB 617 is all about community, how we communicate to get inputs,” said Brawley Elementary School board member Gil Rebollar. “We are here to gather businesses, districts, board members to get together to discuss what has been and will be done … This is an opportunity to allow those who have not been up to date to catch up, be informed, and sit together. We are going to enter education on air quality issues — the younger we can target audiences, the better we can be active toward this movement and be active to make air quality a major component in the Imperial Valley.”
“It’s really nice to have the opportunity to participate in this workshop and be invited by officials,” said Imperial Valley Kayak Club organizer Jerrod Storm. “I believe hemp is a good factor to help eliminate toxins from soil because it takes more carbon dioxide than most plants and keeps dust down. I did enjoy the SFP the most, I do think a lot of my questions were answered in this workshop.”