Air Quality

April 24, 2013

Builders constructing environmental agreements

Source:, April 23, 2013
By: Alex Breitler

Near the peak of last decade’s building boom, air quality officials approved an innovative yet controversial rule holding developers accountable for new pollution caused by growth.

But before long, there was no growth.

Today, as construction activity resumes in south San Joaquin County and all along the Valley, builders are faced with the challenge of designing cleaner neighborhoods or paying to offset pollution elsewhere.

It is not a challenge they initially welcomed, having spent years unsuccessfully attempting to block the rule in court.

But some builders are going even further than what’s required under the rule. They are entering into voluntary agreements to cancel out project emissions entirely, which might protect them from litigation under the state’s stringent environmental laws.

The latest such agreement was signed last week. Meritage Homes agreed to spend nearly $2 million to offset air quality concerns associated with a Manteca residential development it expects to build over the next six years.

Meritage has also committed to clean-air features such as a vehicle roundabout to reduce stopping and starting, school bus stops to facilitate mass transportation, and sidewalks on both sides of the street encouraging people to walk instead of drive. (Some newer neighborhoods contain just one sidewalk per street.)…

December 26, 2012

WILDOMAR: Neighbors alleging contamination voice frustration

Source:, December 19, 2012
By: Michael J. Williams

Residents of a Wildomar neighborhood attending a meeting with county and state officials this week vehemently called on them to investigate whether the soil on their properties is contaminated.

“People are sick and dying. We have lost everything,” said Xonia Villanueva, directing her remarks at representatives of the state Department of Toxic Substances Control.

“You guys need to get off your ass and do something,” cried out Thomas Ciccarelli. “This is not a joke. This is serious.”

Ciccarelli’s wife died earlier this year from pneumonia-like symptoms and other families in the small Autumnwood subdivision of Wildomar, including Villanueva’s, have reported respiratory illnesses, skin rashes and other ailments. The situation led them to file a lawsuit earlier this year against contractors and various agencies.

The suit alleges there are high levels of volatile organic compounds in their homes that could have caused the illnesses, based on an analysis commissioned by their attorney, Julia Swanson.

Several families, including the Ciccarellis and Villanuevas, have moved out of their homes, while continuing to pay on their mortgages, for fear of illness and possibly death.

State air and toxic substances control officials responded, however, that the levels of chemicals cited in Swanson’s letter to them did not appear dangerous, contributing to the rising ire that spilled out among about 50 residents at Tuesday’s gathering.…

June 29, 2012

Lodi bakery faces fine over air pollution accusation

Source: Lodi News-Sentinel, June 27, 2012
Posted on:

A Lodi bakery has agreed to pay $1.3 million in fines and new equipment after an investigation discovered that the business was releasing harmful chemical vapors into the air.

According to a press release from the Environmental Protection Agency, Ralcorp’s Cottage Bakery, located on South Stockton Street, has been ordered to pay a penalty of $625,000 after a nearly three-year investigation revealed the business failed to apply for air pollution permits to install and operate the facility’s ovens and other air pollution controls that minimize the release of volatile organic compounds, including ethanol.

Ethanol is generated during the leavening stage of bread manufacturing and is later released during baking. Cottage Bakery’s production facility includes three bread ovens installed at various times between 1997 and 2006, the press release stated.

The EPA considers volatile organic compounds to be a precursor to ozone pollution.

Ralcorp also agreed to pay $750,000 to install and operate machinery that is meant to reduce VOCs by 95 percent. That machinery is now in use.

A spokesman from Ralcorp was not immediately available for comment.

The agency’s investigation of the bread and cake baking facility included an inspection on July 27, 2009 that revealed that the facility had never applied for air pollution permits to install and operate its ovens, nor had it installed air pollution controls, the press release stated.

Cottage Bakery employs about 625 people. The facility produces frozen bread and cake products that are used by retail bakeries and the food service industry throughout the U.S. and Canada.

According to the agency’s press release, the San Joaquin Valley has some of the poorest air quality in the nation.

Now that the air pollution controls have been installed, however, the business is taking a step towards helping improve air quality both in Lodi and throughout the county.

“Every bit of pollution can contribute to the overall air quality,” said EPA spokesperson Michael Ardito. “We all have to be very aware and try to deter any air pollution that we can.”…

December 10, 2010

Company to Pay $6M For Air Quality Violations

Click here to read about a Pennsylvania company that has been fined for air quality violations.…

December 10, 2010

Toxic schools: Mold, air quality spark thousands of complaints in Central Florida

Publication Date 10/17/2010
Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)

Mold clung to the ceiling and left dark trails across the walls and floor. The teacher had already complained about the stench months before.

Stuff was even growing on desks.

Classroom 103 at Walker Middle School in Orlando had become a breeding ground for mold. When an inspector investigated last year, he found the humidity at about 86 percent.

And this was no isolated incident.

Moldy classrooms and other indoor-air-quality issues have sparked thousands of complaints from teachers and students during the past three years, an Orlando Sentinel investigation has found. Mold has infested walls and ceilings, ruined books and furniture and, in some cases, led to the wholesale evacuation of children from classrooms.…

July 21, 2010

US Green Building Standards Ignore Air Quality, Says Report

Building Design (06/10), Winston, Anna

A May report from Environmental & Human Health Inc. indicates that LEED-certified buildings may be contributing to toxic indoor environments, as the highest “platinum” rating can be achieved without credits for indoor air quality protection.  According to the report, LEED Certification: Where Energy Efficiency Collides With Human Health, “[The LEED Certification system conveys a] false impression of a healthy and safe building environment, even when well-recognized hazardous chemicals exist in building products.”  Yale University risk analysis and environmental policy professor John Wargo, who penned the report, notes that “tighter buildings often concentrate chemicals released from building materials, cleaning supplies, fuel combustion, pesticides and other hazardous substances.”…