Southern California environment news and trends

Hot topic: Air, water pollution top America's environmental worries

A view of downtown Los Angeles,Californi

GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

As most of the country is gripped in a brutal heat wave, a recent Washington Post-Stanford University poll finds that climate change is no longer the primary environmental concern of Americans.

According to the poll, air and water pollution is now the number one ecological situation Americans worry about at 27 percent, compared to just 18 percent who cited climate change. A similar poll taken back in 2007 had climate change in the top spot with 33 percent.

AFP points out that the survey of 800 people occurred between June 13 and 21, before the current record-breaking temperatures overtook a large part of the nation. Still almost three quarters of those polled believe the world is heating up and will continue to rise unless something is done to stop it. Seventy-eight percent of the respondents said global warming will be a serious problem if left alone, and 55 percent replied that the U.S. government should do "a great deal.”

Read More...

Breathe easier: Check air quality with new smartphone app

Take a deep breath — unless your phone tells you otherwise. This week, the American Lung Association announced a free smartphone application designed to help users breathe a little easier. Called “State of the Air,” the new app delivers updated air quality information in the immediate environment.

Utilizing ZIP code and geo-location technology, the app can check levels of ozone and particle pollution, which are the two most common air pollutants, according to the Lung Association’s 2012 State of the Air report, released in April. The report also showed that over 127.2 million people live in U.S. counties with dangerous levels of both.

"More than 40 percent of people in the United States live in areas where air pollution continues to threaten their health," said Dr. Norman H. Edelman, Chief Medical Officer for the American Lung Association in a statement. "The State of the Air app is especially valuable warmer weather, when ozone pollution peaks in many cities with long hot sunny days."

Read More...

LADWP says Owens Lake's 'Owengeti' could suggest new modes for dust control

KPCC/Molly Peterson

LADWP's Marty Adams says he calls one parcel of the Owens Dry Lake "the Owensgeti," after the grass and woodland Serengeti.

KPCC/Molly Peterson

In one 600-acre patch of the lake, LADWP has begun to mimic nature as an experiment. "We took this area and we releveled it so we put better angles on the dirt, and it worked well," Adams says.

Molly Peterson/KPCC

Using bulldozers, LADWP has been trying a new technique called "tillage." Putting a bulldozer at an angle, operators plow in a straight line several feet deep through soil to turn up a layer of clay that can hold salty particles down.


I went out to Owens Lake for a story on dust mitigation with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power back in April. When I did, Marty Adams and pretty much everyone else from the DWP I encountered were all eager to show me an area on the northeast side of the lake. Adams called it "the Owengeti."

The Serengeti is a grass-woodland in Tanzania and other countries in Africa, legendary for its beauty. (See, e.g., Toto, "Africa.") This 600-acre "Owengeti" is on the far side of the lake, away from Highway 395--unfortunate, says Adams, "because it's far from traffic. The average person sees the salt flats; they don't see the beautiful part on the east side." 

There's plenty of crusty white powder near the "Owengeti," too. It crunches satisfyingly underfoot, though I also was immediately burdened knowing that I contributed to the possibility of the particulate, PM10, flying through the air. "It's like walking on the moon. except i thought the moon would be firmer," Adams said. "It's like a powdered sugar donut." (Though I sort of think it's more like Entemann's crumb cake.)

Read More...

EPA proposes stricter national limits on fine particle pollution

A view of downtown Los Angeles,Californi

GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

Under pressure from a lawsuit submitted by 11 states (including California) and the National Lung Association, the Environmental Protection Agency is submitting new air quality standards that would restrict the amount of soot that can be released into the air.

As reported by the L.A. Times, the proposed change would decrease the allowable fine particle pollution (AKA soot) across America to a range of between 12 and 13 micrograms per cubic meter of air from the current 15 micrograms. Soot has been linked to premature deaths, asthma attacks, lung cancer and heart disease.

“Through this rule making, the EPA will get information into the hands of American families so they can manage their lives better,” said Gina McCarthy, the assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the EPA during a telephone press conference today. “Mothers of asthmatic children, the elderly, folks who suffer from respiratory or cardiac or pulmonary challenges.”

Read More...

Diesel soot pollution in railyard air isn't solid waste, says federal court

Molly Peterson/KPCC

Containers transferred off-dock by truck then take to rail lines. These containers sit atop rail lines in the ICTF. People who live across the street say the fumes and noise are hazardous.

A federal judge has dismissed efforts by environmental groups to hold rail yard companies responsible for pollution under the law known as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Last year we reported on the filing of this case. 

The Natural Resources Defense Council and others had argued that the hazardous waste from rail yards is in exhaust

Pettit likens diesel particulate pollution to a shotgun blast. "If someone points a shotgun at you and pulls the trigger, what comes out of the barrel is the hot gases and the shotgun pellets, and it's not the gases that kill you, it's the pellets, the particles that kill you, the pellets. And it's the same way with diesel exhaust, you suck those particles into your lungs with arsenic and lead and bad stuff on them, you suck them into your lungs and they don't come out again, and that's what kills you." Petit pauses. "This legal theory, if it works, will be of national significance, and we'll be able to use it all over the country."

Read More...