Napa Man Wants to Puncture 'Spare-the-Air' Bubble

But Bay Area Air Quality Management District officials say Napa air monitoring process is in strict compliance with U.S. EPA standards.

Napa's air quality sensor is located at 2552 Jefferson St. courtesy photo
Napa's air quality sensor is located at 2552 Jefferson St. courtesy photo
As Napa Valley and the Bay Area enter the fifth consecutive "Winter Spare the Air Alert" on Thursday -- and the ninth of the season -- one Napa man says he's tired of the "smoking gun."

According to the man, who lives in north Napa, the "smoking gun" is the "dishonesty" of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the agency that generates the Spare-the-Air Alerts in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

"The North Bay is frequently the reason we have Spare-the-Air days," says the man, who asked that his name not be used because he said he is a former employee of the BAAQMD and he doesn't "want to be identified as the whistleblower."

"That is because their Napa sensor is literally on top of a Mexican bakery, next to a nail salon and another bakery, and just a few feet downwind from a BBQ restaurant," the Napa man says. "This is intentional so that they can claim that the air in Napa is bad--it isn't."

Ralph Borrmann, public information officer for the BAAQMD, says the Napa sensor -- at 2552 Jefferson St., across from Napa High School -- is one of 30 sensors in the Bay Area that are chosen according to strict U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards. The Bay Area agency has no agenda of its own in choosing the sites, he said.

"We can't just site it where we want," Borrmann said. "We have to be in compliance with the U.S. EPA standards that are set on a national basis."

He said anyone may review the Napa sensor specifications on Page 77 of the agency's report, "2012 Air Monitoring Plan."  

"The whole idea is to get a reading of the expression of ambient air quality for the air throughout the Bay Area," Borrmann said. "It gives us a picture of the region -- it's not done on a block-by-block basis."

According to the report, Napa was chosen to represent Napa County region because it is the largest city, the report says. The Jefferson Street site was chosen because it is in the "middle" of various types of measures -- a mix of residential and commercial uses, but not close to an industrial source, for example.

But the Napa self-styled whistleblower said he objects to the Jefferson Street sensor site, saying that the monitoring locations are supposed to be in residential areas. He claims the BAAQMD applied for and received a waiver to site the sensor in a commercial area.

 "Proof: please see page 265 and beyond of the Air District's document," the man said, offering the following link: http://www.baaqmd.gov/~/media/Files/Technical%20Services/2012_Network_Plan.ashx

"There is no tourist traffic here--it is all Napa inhabitants," he said.  "It is clear that this air-monitoring site provides intentionally incorrect data with the sole purpose of stating that air in Napa County is unhealthful, which it is not."

Other allegations offered by the Napa man are that the BAAQMD lowered its particulate matter threshold recently so that it could issue more Spare-the-Air alerts, and that the whole process was a way to ensure job security and cost-of-living-increases for the air district staff.

Borrmann said the threshold levels are standard nationally: Air quality needs to stay below 35 micrograms per cubic meter of particulate matter that measures 2.5 microns or larger, according to the EPA. The BAAQMD issues the alerts when staff determine the region is in danger of exceeding that amount.

"We call it when we get to a certain level (of particulates)," Borrmann said. "We want to avoid exceeding the EPA's standard."

As to the monetary allegations, Borrmann said they were baseless.

"I don't see how calling a Spare-the-Air Day puts money in your pocket," he said.

The Napa man also claims the BAAQMD "is using Bay Area money to sponsor global climate change initiatives that are completely outside of their purview," he said. 

"They are using Bay Area money for what should be, at best, a state issue but more likely a federal issue," he added. 

"Not only did they create an entirely new division to study global climate change, they announced this direction over the summer," he said, offering a link to the press release. http://www.baaqmd.gov/~/media/Files/Communications%20and%20Outreach/Publications/News%20Releases/2013/climateres_131106.ashx?la=en

According to Borrmann, the press release quoted above, dated Nov. 6, is simply a statement of goals for improving air quality in the region -- and is not a plan to "create an entirely new division to study global climate change," as the Napa man alleges.

"We have a lot of goals," Borrmann said. "They are all outlined in the Clean Air Plan."

Borrmann said the Napa man -- or anyone else who needs more details on how the Napa sensor site was chosen -- is welcome to contact him at rborrmann@baaqmd.gov.

Robert Morey December 13, 2013 at 11:18 AM
@Janice--all the more reason for the Air District to be a state agency and not a self-supporting "special district." Also, please note that Brad Wagenknecht sits on the Board of Directors of the Air District and was behind forcing Napa County to be part of Spare-the-Air.
Robert Morey December 13, 2013 at 11:21 AM
@Personal Opinion--I did a bit of reading and it looks like CARB (California Air Resources Board) and Cal-EPA are supposed to keep an eye on the Air District but I came across many comments about how that is not the case. I saw one comment about how a county's Grand Jury is supposed to be able to look into the potential conflict of interest when Air District management owns a lot of PG&E stock. Perhaps someone should look into filing a complaint with the Napa Grand Jury--there's an article in the Register from a few weeks back.
Prickly Pear December 13, 2013 at 12:06 PM
In response to Paul Woodward - I say ban the useless vineyard cane burns altogether and have those guys grind it. Then, take the compost and do something with it.
George Zizka December 13, 2013 at 01:05 PM
"Nobody cooks or builds a fire for heat unless your homeless" says Mr. Edwards. I wander if he ever had a pizza cooked in a wood burning oven. Many restaurants in Bay Area have those. Some even prepare food in fireplaces. And when you heater does not come on Mr. Edwards, join the homeless by the river. You'll be warmer.
Harold Edwards December 13, 2013 at 08:29 PM
This area has the mildest weather in the World,as for pizza I like the pizza in New York cooked in a coal burning oven.Thats why I live here so we can breath cleaner air.We all should try to keep the world a clean place not only for us but for the next generation.It should be a law of man because it sure is a law of God.
Janice December 13, 2013 at 11:01 PM
Robert, I had no idea about Brad. But it seems all our officials are in this stuff together. Truthfully I personally think it's all about making money, and we all know how money can change ones way of thinking. Also 4 those who even care I don't believe in global warming either, oh I forgot they call it climate change now because guess what??? We are NOT WARMING!! Just a thought peeps...
Jan Dalluge December 14, 2013 at 11:40 AM
just sayin' when you turn your heater on, the gas or electricity has a huge carbon footprint.....wood is renewable, when burned properly fairly clean. Don't burn garbage! government is in itself, a growing industry that you and I pay for,, they are not about to eliminate their own paychecks, they, in fact, will do or say anything to justify themselves...government has gotten way too big,too out of control, yikes, wrong....I meant MORE IN CONTROL
Janice December 14, 2013 at 01:33 PM
Paul Woodward, MD December 14, 2013 at 03:30 PM
We all need to breathe air despite our politics! Napa Valley is similar to L.A.: our mountains allow inversion layers to trap pollution which makes breathing difficult. Burning vines in Napa Valley is bad for breathing. Chipping and then composting is a much better idea. Napa Waste Management has an active composting program. Many people are not able to “just turn on the heat” because they cannot afford the PG&E bill. These citizens often cut, split and dry the wood needed to keep their family comfortable during the winter. " Pellet stoves, which generally use wood and/or corn based substrates, are more complicated but also pollute less than the EPA-certified wood burning stoves and in fact, any other heating appliance that burns solid fuels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that traditional fireplaces be replaced with non-wood burning stoves (for example, vented gas stoves), pellet stoves, or EPA certified modern wood stoves." http://www.treehugger.com/culture/ask-treehugger-wood-vs-pellet-stoves.html Fire places typically exhaust more heat up the chimney than they radiate into the home. Yet there is a place for romance….just not Spare-The-Air days 
John Richards December 14, 2013 at 06:46 PM
Wood burning is a natural activity. Think of forest fires started by lightning. I love the smell of burning wood. If the smoke bothers you, wear a mask, but don't inconvenience the rest of us who want to use our fireplaces in the way nature intended.
Sherry McGarity December 15, 2013 at 10:51 AM
LOVE the comment about PG&E having their "grubbies" in the pot. No truer words were spoken. The one about burning "pellets", WELL, do you know what the pellets are made of,? and how do you think they stick together? Hmm? GLUE!! AND they STINK on top of poisoning your lungs. WOOD BURNER FOREVER!!
Sherry McGarity December 15, 2013 at 10:54 AM
PG&E wants EVERYONE to be completely electrical! More money for them, as if they need it! It's GREEN for me all the way!
Sherry McGarity December 15, 2013 at 10:59 AM
To Robert Morey, maybe that someone should be you. I'm sure others would follow if you'd put out a petition. I know I would.
Janice December 15, 2013 at 02:41 PM
@Robert, yep Sherry is right, write a letter just be articulate in expressing your complaint ... It does do let them know how we feel and it does get looked into ... Great idea Sherry :). Go 4 it Robert U will have a lot of support!!!!! God Bless all and MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR TOO ALL!!!!
Paul Woodward, MD December 15, 2013 at 06:21 PM
John, With the greatest of respect how would wearing a mask help someone with respiratory disease? On the other hand why should tens of thousands of people "wear a mask" because "you" want to have a fire during a Spare The Air Day? Your comments are quite intelligent and articulate but I think you are wrong on this one.
Robert Morey December 15, 2013 at 07:27 PM
@Dr. Woodward--I don't know if you've ever been to Los Angeles but the topography is not at all like the Napa Valley (I'm originally from that are). Here, we have winds from north to south down the valley; nothing gets trapped. In the greater Bay Area, nothing prevents the marine breezes from pushing past the Bay Area and into Solano, Sacramento, and San Joaquin valleys. Los Angeles is truly a mountain-locked basin whose marine winds push the pollution up against the mountains where it remains. If I recall correctly, Ronald Reagan even talked about carving a hole in the mountain ranges so that pollution could leak through.
Paul Woodward, MD December 15, 2013 at 07:39 PM
Robert you are correct about the differences between LA and Napa. In Napa there are 2 mountain ranges on the east and west. Winds from the south push pollution most of from San and Oakland north until trapped around Calistoga. You could say that our situation is worse and that we need to be more careful with our air!
Paul Woodward, MD December 15, 2013 at 07:40 PM
...San Francisco (typo).
Harold Edwards December 15, 2013 at 08:48 PM
I live in Calistoga maybe we could punch a hole thru Mt St Helena,but it would have to be bigger than the hole Ronald Reagan had in his head when he came up with all his ideas that big business dictated to that political puppet.Man I hate to talk bad about anybody but the crimes he did against humanity,We still are suffering today.God Bless his Soul,if there is a place called Hell he is in BIG trouble !!
Rob December 15, 2013 at 10:34 PM
PG&E "Spare the Share" day.... It won't be too long before they just declare the entire winter.
John Richards December 16, 2013 at 01:39 AM
A mask blocks particulates generated by wood fires, so that would provide a remedy for the small percentage of the populace who suffer from asthma. It is used in that fashion in Japan's cities. Healthy folks are not bothered by a few smoke particles in the air.
Unfiltered Steve Simoneau December 16, 2013 at 12:50 PM
Dr. Woodward: If you read the BAAQMD reason for declaring a Spare-The-Air day it is because the cold air mass has settled over the region, meaning there is no air to move it anyplace. Also, air rises when it warms and elevates the particulates above the few feet of atmosphere we breathe. I have numerous meteorological reference and textbooks if you would like to borrow and study them, they belonged to a man who forecasted the weather for 'Operation Overlord' in WWII, otherwise known as the invasion of Normandy. I'm fairly confident the information in the books is dependable, as that was the last war the U.S. won.
Prickly Pear December 16, 2013 at 01:06 PM
Exactly Paul! "Burning vines in Napa Valley is bad for breathing. Chipping and then composting is a much better idea. Napa Waste Management has an active composting program. " Then why doesn't the city/country ENFORCE this and FINE vineyard owner for not chipping. Oh boy, just a few more weeks, and it's time for the month long cane burn!!!! ;0( This is my biggest hate of this area since moving here 7 years ago..... just when the air is supposed to be nice and "fresh"....
Paul Woodward, MD December 16, 2013 at 02:16 PM
Wow! Great discussion with Patch. I’m not an expert on air quality but like most people have an opinion. A Chinese study concluded: “Overall, interventions and large-scale attempts to improve air quality have great public health importance. In addition, simple personal solutions may also benefit and improve health for people feeling the effects of polluted air. This may be especially important in large, highly polluted urban areas where there is little effort to control emissions.” http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newscience/2012/01/2012-0402-masks-reduce-air-effects Wearing high-efficiency masks was helpful in the above-mentioned study for those with coronary heart disease. Here’s a summary of 1,000 scientific studies regarding lung cancer and air pollution: “The fact that nearly everyone on the planet is exposed to outdoor pollution could prompt governments and other agencies to adopt stricter controls on spewing fumes. Straif noted that WHO and the European Commission are reviewing their recommended limits on air pollution. Previously, pollution had been found to boost the chances of heart and respiratory diseases. The expert panel's classification was made after scientists analyzed more than 1,000 studies worldwide and concluded there was enough evidence that exposure to outdoor air pollution causes lung cancer.” http://news.yahoo.com/agency-air-pollution-causes-cancer-093059748.html
Janice December 16, 2013 at 03:51 PM
WOW, The more I read the crazier it gets!!! EVERYONE HAS AN OPINION !! That's great because we can have a conversation. here it comes " But I personality think all this about big money" sorry peeps , I know it sounds bad even ugly to think this way but our lives have been so turned upside down with all this " don't do this and that" and the one better yet our officials knows just what is best 4 us! We all have to know people with BIG money do as they wish. Think of Al Gore and his mission and yet he owns homes the size of Texas and a private plane. Even if we do ( USA ) what is best the other countries do not so who suffers. You can only do so much but we have become just to PC about all of this. We need to get R world together and come together as a Country because really at the end of the day this is just small potatoes ... Just my thoughts.. God Bless us all and I wish everyone a very MERRY CHRISTMAS & with the grace of God more too come. :). !!!!
Tom Davidson December 17, 2013 at 01:01 AM
So China is where we're going for expertise on air pollution ? Priceless. Heck, they're just sending their pollution over here, and the BAAQMD is going to fix THEIR worldwide problem with regional dictation. Right....
dalton.allen December 18, 2013 at 02:17 PM
At Harold- How about instead of banning people burning natural wood to enjoy, or cook, or be warm, they hold responsible the "corporate industrial mega-polluters" that are responsible for polluting our air in the first place. And there are many families whose only source of heat is a fire (which is allowed btw). Having or cooking over fire does not make one a caveman, it makes one a human.
Paul Woodward, MD December 18, 2013 at 02:22 PM
At this moment in ? North ? Dakota according to the NY Times natural gas is being wasted by burning in the oil fields; CO2 is being produced equivalent to 3 coal-fired power plants. It will take 5 years to "Fix" the problem by using the natural gas instead of just wasting it. This has nothing to do with the California Bay Area air-pollution problem but illustrates that there is more to this than just particulate matter. When our inversion layer is gone we are only sending the nasty pollution to our neighbors down wind. :(
Prickly Pear December 24, 2013 at 12:25 PM
I see the vineyard canes piled up off 29.... ready to burn and fill this stagnant valley air with smoke. Dang it. It ticks me off.
Robert Morey December 24, 2013 at 12:29 PM
They pay a fee to the Air District for burning and, therefore, they can burn during Spare-the-Air days. Ditto for all the barrel manufacturers in the valley. And pizza restaurants, hotels, and so on--it's a pay-to-pollute scheme. Do something--complain to the media, file a complaint with the Napa Grand Jury or the EPA. The Air District won't change anything unless it's forced to.


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