San Lorenzo Valley wood smoke

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San Lorenzo Valley wood smoke

Postby Wilberforce » Sat Apr 28, 2018 5:37 pm

Santa Cruz County air rated ‘F’ again due to San Lorenzo Valley wood smoke
By Jondi Gumz, Santa Cruz Sentinel

Posted: 04/18/18, 7:47 PM PDT | Updated: 1 week, 2 days ago

SAN LORENZO VALLEY >> Santa Cruz County has been rated “F” for air quality for the fourth year in a row due to smoke from people in San Lorenzo Valley using wood stoves in the winter, but help is on the way.

The American Lung Association report released Wednesday reported 12 days of unhealthy air, based on monitoring particle pollution from 2014 to 2016, down from 37 days four years ago — not enough improvement to warrant a better grade, according to the association’s Ravi Choudhuri.

Particle pollution created by burning wood can increase the risk of asthma attacks, according to the lung association.

State data from 2014, the most recent available, show 27 percent of children 5 to 17 had an asthma attack, which is twice the state average.

Research has linked short-term increases in particle pollution to more severe asthma attacks. The average asthma hospitalization in Santa Cruz County averaged $39,000 for chldren in 2014, higher than the state average, accoridn bto the California Department of Public Health.

San Lorenzo Valley is a mountain community with a history of logging. Many people burn wood to heat their home in the winter. No one knows exactly how many wood stoves are in use. Estimates range from 6,000 to 20,000.

For some, electric heat is too expensive. Some lack resources to invest in a cleaner alternative. Some opt for cheaper wood that hasn’t been dried for a year, which creates more smoke. And others close their wood stove damper at night to keep the fire going — a practice that used to be recommended but now experts realize this worsens air quality.

“It’s tough — it’s really tough,” said Robin Musitelli, a valley resident who works for county Supervisor Bruce McPherson. “It’s going to take time.”

The air pollution problem has gotten attention from local residents, elected officials and state regulators, with incentives to help people buy cleaner wood stoves, free dump days to prevent trash burning and annual poster contests for school children on avoiding wood smoke hazards.

Santa Cruz County began getting a failing grade in 2015 after a new air monitor documented the pollution problem in San Lorenzo Valley.

There are four seasonal monitors at CalFire in Felton, San Lorenzo Valley Middle School in Felton, Zayante Fire Station and Boulder Creek.

Richard Stedman, executive director of the Monterey Bay Air Resources District, questions whether it’s appropriate for the entire county to get a failing grade given that the air pollution stems from one area of the county.

Choudhuri counters that the air travels through the region and impacts lung health.

“We’re trying to show what areas need improvement,” he said.

Though Stedman said he takes exception to the rating methodology, the air district has invested resources in solutions, increasing its allocation for wood stove change-outs from $25,000 to $75,000 a year.

He said the agency has provided funding for “well over 200” people to change their wood stove, “a drop in the bucket” given the number in use.

The incentive is typically $1,500 — $2,500 for low-income households — for a stove that could cost $2,500 to $5,000.

The cost can run higher when more exhaust piping is needed or the floor needs replacing.

Stedman said he expects the agency to be awarded $250,000 by the California Air Resources Board’s cap-and-trade program, which could boost the number of grants to households for cleaner stoves.

Stedman said it’s hard to identify who’s causing the problem when someone complains about San Lorenzo Valley smoke.

“We don’t have drones policing the area,” he said.

Lake Tahoe, which sits in a valley surrounded by mountains, had the same problem: Smoky air from wood-burning stoves.

In 1993, the regional planning agency began requiring homeowners to replace old polluting stoves upon sale of the property.

When that idea came up in San Lorenzo Valley, the Santa Cruz County Association of Realtors objected, saying it would delay home sales, according to Stedman. He hopes to work with the group on a voluntary program with incentives.

Nancy Macy of the Valley Women’s Club would like new funds prioritized for problem areas such as downtown Felton and Ben Lomond.

She said she hopes San Lorenzo Valley will be assigned new baseline rates by PG&E, making gas or electric heat more affordable.

The group requested the change three years ago, and with support from Supervisor Bruce McPherson, the request was approved two years ago, but it hasn’t taken place, Macy said.

“It’s supposed to happen in 2018,” she said. “Taking so long is frustrating.”

The new Monterey Bay Community Power might be an affordable option, she said.

The Valley Women’s Club partnered with Valley Churches United Missions to provide dry firewood last year, and sponsors the poster contest that Macy believes has raised awareness of air pollution.

Still, the custom of heating with wood is hard to change.

“People love wood-burning stoves,” Macy said.

She switched 20 years ago because her son Andrew had asthma.

“The doctor said, ‘Every time you open the door to put wood in, it lets smoke out,’” she recalled.

Her son is “well and healthy at 35,” she said.

Santa Cruz County
High ozone: 0 days
Ozone grade: A
California counties rated A: 11
High particle pollution: 12 days
Particle pollution grade: F
California counties rated F: 17
To score D: 7-9 days
To score C: 3-6 days
To score B: 1-2 days
To score A: 0 days

Source: American Lung Association,

source ... /180419680
• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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