Bay Area Meeting on Wood Smoke Pollution

Bay Area Meeting on Wood Smoke Pollution

The Board of Directors of the San Francisco Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) is meeting this Wednesday, April 6, at 9:45 a.m. At this meeting, there will be a recap of this past winter’s Spare the Air program, which represents the bulk of BAAQMD’s efforts concerning wood smoke enforcement and education.

This is the third year that the program has been in effect. Once again the Board will hear an upbeat report from the Outreach Department about the number of media stories and ads placed reminding people to “check before you burn.” The Enforcement Division will present its facts and figures about the number of wood smoke complaints received and the resulting patrols. The report will most likely point to the fact that this past winter the Bay Area exceeded the National Ambient Air Quality standard for particulate matter only once as proof that the BAAQMD’s efforts to reduce wood smoke pollution are working.

Families for Clean Air will be at the Board meeting to rebut the rosy picture painted by Outreach and Enforcement and tell the story of what’s happening in neighborhoods heavily impacted by wood smoke. In addition to anecdotal evidence from people living in a toxic clouds of smoke from their neighbors’ chimneys, FCA has conducted its own pilot study, conducted by the same consultant who conducts air quality monitoring studies for BAAQMD. FCA’s study shows that, not just once, but several times throughout the winter, the air quality in one wood smoke-impacted neighborhood exceeded the National Ambient Air Quality standard for particulate matter. This standard is what BAAQMD uses when it calls a winter Spare the Air alert, which bans wood burning for 24 hours.

The FCA study shows that the BAAQMD’s region-wide approach to wood smoke regulation is not reaching the communities that need it most. We will repeat the message to the Board on Wednesday: It is time to focus on a neighborhood-level approach to wood smoke pollution. There need to be air quality monitors and wood smoke abatement programs in wood smoke-impacted neighborhoods, just as there are air quality monitors in neighborhoods impacted by diesel pollution and a myriad of programs to reduce diesel pollution. It’s time to take the issue of wood smoke pollution off the back burner.

If your neighborhood has a wood smoke problem, give FCA a call or email us so that we can relay that information to the BAAQMD board at the meeting on Wednesday. Or come to the meeting at 939 Ellis Street in San Francisco. We’ll report back on the results.

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