Monday, 27 May 2024

'State of the Air Report' gives Lake County high grades for another year

LAKE COUNTY – Lake County once again got high grades and was ranked amongst the best counties nationwide for clean air in the annual American Lung Association State of the Air Report.

The report, out this week, grades areas on an A through F scale by comparing local ozone and small-particulate concentrations with the federal air quality standards.

Many areas around the nation and the state received failing grades, but Lake County received an “A” grade for ozone, a “B” grade for short term particulate pollution and was ranked 10th cleanest county in the nation for annual particulate average concentrations.

Lake County is one of only nine counties in California that did not have any days of ozone air pollution levels in the unhealthful range, according to the report.

In the 2009 report, Lake County was ranked No. 3 nationwide for cleanest air, as Lake County news has reported.

Doug Gearhart, the county's pollution control officer, attributed that change in ranking to the 2008 wildfires that plagued the region.

Lake County did have several days of unhealthy air during the 2008 wildfires, which Gearhart said will affect Lake County’s rating for several years as the grading is based on a three years of data.

“That was the only significant impact on the air quality in Lake County in the last three years,” said Gearhart.

Lake County's air quality instruments continued working during the wildfires and so got accurate readings which counted against the county. Gearhart said the same instruments failed for four neighboring counties – which also had issues with the wildfires – preventing them from getting accurate readings.

As a result, Gearhart explained that those counties got A grades while Lake County got a B for short term particulate pollution from the American Lung Association.

“We worked with them to try to come up with a resolution, but they were unable to come up with a legal way to resolve that issue in their report,” he said.

Even with the wildfire impacts, Lake County is the only county in California to place in the top

10 cleanest counties in the country for small-particulate levels, the report showed. Mendocino, Inyo and Santa Cruz counties are the only other counties in California to make the top 25.

That record was documented by continuous air quality monitoring over the past three years, which showed that ozone and small particles in the air never exceeded allowable levels during that time.

Gearhart called that ranking a “spectacular and amazing achievement.”

“It really does say a lot for the air quality we enjoy here,” he said.

He attributed the success of the county's air quality management program to strong community support

and cooperation of local agencies, the local fire protection districts, Cal Fire, the local agricultural community and industry.

Gearhart said the report does a good job of capturing everything that's going on with local air quality.

The State of the Air Report grades are the latest recognition of a long history of air quality accomplishments in Lake County, said Gearhart.

Strong local support for clean air measures has enabled the county to comply in full with not only the Federal Clean Air Standards, but also with the more rigorous California standards for ozone and other air pollutants for the past 20 years, according to Gearhart.

He said no other air district in California can match that record.

However, Gearhart said there could be new state and federal restrictions on the horizon that could affect the county's standings.

He said the state is considering tougher diesel and ambient air quality standards, and the federal Environmental Protection Agency is suggesting a new and very stringent ozone standard.

“Our attainment status could be in jeopardy,” he said.

That, he said, would affect every industry – including agriculture – as well as homeowners.

Losing the ozone attainment could mean smog checks for everyone, plus additional regulations on agriculture, Gearhart said.

Ozone occurs naturally and also is formed from vehicle emissions, Gearhart explained.

“It really impacts almost everything that happens in Lake County,” he said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

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