STANISLAUS COUNTY — The first air alert of 2013 for Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Merced and other valley counties began Monday and is in effect through Wednesday.
The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District declares air alerts when conditions that lead to ozone formation increased emissions, high temperatures and stagnant air flow develop. Episodes of late-summer high ozone are correlated to back-to-school traffic and increased vehicle idling.
High ozone levels are harmful to health and put the valley at risk for exceeding the one-hour federal ozone standard, which can trigger an annual $29 million penalty. This penalty is paid by valley drivers in the form of a $12 addition to their DMV registration fee plus increased fees on businesses.
"Since this program was initiated two years ago, we have had positive response from valley residents and businesses, who understand that cooperating to minimize one-hour ozone pays big dividends year-round," said Seyed Sadredin, the air district's executive officer and air pollution control officer, in a news release.
For Modesto and Turlock on Monday evening, the district's online air advisory network rated two types of pollution ozone and fine particulate matter both as moderate, meaning sensitive individuals should reduce prolonged and/or vigorous outdoor activities. To check air quality at any time, go to www.valleyair.org. The air quality forecast for today is good for Stanislaus and Merced counties, but moderate for San Joaquin County.
Steps residents can take to reduce ozone levels include taking a bus or riding a bike instead of driving, walking children to and from school (or at least refraining from idling when dropping off and picking up students), avoiding yard work with gasoline-powered equipment, carpooling, linking trips doing all errands at once or postponing errands, and avoiding drive-throughs.
To receive air alert notifications, call 1-800-766-4463 or subscribe to the Air Alert email list at www.valleyair.org/list.list.htm.
To learn more, call the district's Modesto office at (209) 557-6400.