A Claycordian made a public records request to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) regarding Spare the Air Alerts, and this is what he discovered about when & why the BAAQMD decides to issue a Spare the Air Alert, as well as how many citations were issued between Nov.1 – Dec. 12. (a total of 9 spare the air alerts were issued during that time frame).
Here’s the information:
I made a public records request to BAAQMD, the answers are attached.
I called them when we had 10 mph winds in Concord and high wind warnings on the Benicia Bridge. They were very nice and explained that if the is a bad air forecast anywhere in the District, they shut the whole district down, and they don’t change their proclamation, once they make one. Hardly my definition of an agile organization.
The one interesting thing is they absolutely will not identify who makes the decision to have a burn ban, either by phone or in response to my PRA request.
The following is from the BAAQMD:
1. Number of violations by City for 11/1/13 to 12/12/13. (Warning letters are no longer issued)
City # of Violations
Daly City 1
Forest Knolls 2
Half Moon Bay 6
Los Gatos 3
Moss Beach 2
Palo Alto 1
Rohnert Park 4
Saint Helena 1
San Carlos 1
San Geronimo 2
San Jose 3
San Mateo 1
San Rafael 2
Santa Clara 1
Santa Rosa 11
Walnut Creek 2
2. There are no designated “Spare the Air” enforcement personnel. The District has 70 inspectors who enforce not only the regulation that applies to wood burning, but also the many air quality regulations that apply to large industrial facilities such as refineries and power plants, to a wide variety of manufacturing facilities, and to commercial facilities such as gas stations and dry cleaners. These inspectors are routinely in the field carrying out scheduled inspections of facilities and responding to a wide variety of complaints.
3. From 11/1/13 to 12/15/13, the District received 1,929 complaints in the wood smoke complaint system.
4. The District has staff meteorologists who make the forecasts. Under the wood burning rule, the trigger for a curtailment period is the 35 microgram per cubic meter federal particulate matter standard. When the District meteorologists determine that levels are expected to approach the federal standard, a Spare the Air Alert is called.
The meteorologists make these determinations after (1) considering current and forecasted weather information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Weather Service, and other forecasting services, (2) running forecast models such as MM5, CANSAC, and WRF, (3) examining particulate matter concentration data from the Air District atmospheric monitoring network and the networks of other California agencies, and (4) running statistical models that correlate variables with atmospheric particulate concentrations. The determination is a matter of professional judgment based on many current and forecasted variables such as wind directions and speeds, mixing heights, ground level temperatures, temperatures aloft, solar gain, cloud cover, and relative humidity.
Rochelle Reed, Public Records