From Tuesday to Wednesday, Sept. 18-19, two representatives from the Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District (MDAQMD) spent hours visiting the lower basin of the Palo Verde Valley, reaching out to local leaders, educating students in the classroom and providing local outreach to those in need of grant opportunities.
Making a stop at DeConinck’s Farm, Martial Haprov, the MDAQMD Community Relations and Education Specialist, and Jorge Camacho, MDAQMD’s grant specialist, awarded one of Blythe’s local farmers, Joey DeConinck, with a $121,000 check; additionally, the regional agency made several more stops during their time in town, stopping at Ruth Brown Elementary School, Twin Palms High School, the Blythe Chamber of Commerce and City Hall.
With MDAQMD celebrating their 25th anniversary of enforcing, monitoring, planning, regulating and attaining quality air for the State of California, the district’s efforts have seen more than $13 million awarded to eligible projects across the 20,000 square-miles of counties and cities that they serve — including one of their recently funded projects comprising more than $360,000 for the expansion of the Blythe Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Station.
In addition to all the work that the district does to regulate stationary sources and air pollution located within its jurisdictional boundaries, one unique part of its program provides free educational services to the 24 school districts located in the High Desert, the Palo Verde Valley, Palmdale and Lancaster.
Helping to aspire and improve youth literacy and knowledge about environmental sciences and other stem programs, the Mojave Environmental Education Consortium (MEC) representatives also contribute to local learning, by sharing with students things they can do to make an impact and promote breathable air.
At Twin Palms High School on Sept. 19, Haprov and Camacho gave a 30-minute lecture to students on the responsibilities of MDAQMD: who they are, what areas do they represent and the science behind producing and protecting quality air.
As MDAQMD observes certain criteria pollutants and particulate matter released at ground level, they also monitor how the sources affect the air in which we breathe.
“We have six monitoring stations throughout our district. You can fit the state of Rhode Island 16 times within our district, without overlapping, so we have a lot of air to cover,” noted Haprov. “We monitor and track a lot of air space, and again that’s just breathable air. We’re not talking about way up high in the atmosphere, but just here at ground level.”
Due to ground level ozone being a serious problem in the Mojave Desert area, according to Haprov, once the chemicals from gas-operated engines (motor exhaust and gasoline vapors) or industrial factories are released into the air, a chemical reaction between oxides of nitrogen and hydrocarbon in the presence of sunlight reproduces volatile emissions.
“When we hit the triple-digit temperatures here, the creation of ground level ozone is increased, so while our air quality is mostly good year round, the summer time isn’t a good for us, and if you ever drive into Los Angeles during that time of year, you can see the smog almost hovering like a smoke fog over the city,” said Haprov.
Teaching students that breathing ground level ozone air can trigger a variety of health problems, Haprov also mentioned that chronic exposure to pollution, “can make even the healthiest of people sick with respiratory and cardiovascular issues.”
In underlining some measures both students and parents can take to not only protect their health but protect the air quality for future generations, Haprov suggested that students settle for riding their bikes to school instead of being driven in a car; because by taking one car off the road for at least one mile a day, less emissions are put into the air or about 10 percent.
Additionally, Haprov also said it’s better to drive electric vehicles than gasoline-powered vehicles (GPV), in which he also added that for those who rather drive a gpv, it’s better to fuel up with gas in the morning or late in the evening when the sun is down or when the sun isn’t so high in the sky, so the chemical reaction that the sunlight plays in creating ground level ozone is at a lower ratio.
Likewise, another opportunity both students and parents should practice in lowering the negative impact of air severity is being aware of the everyday household products one uses, which may contain harsh chemical; wherein Haprov suggested reaching for alternative products that are eco-friendly.
As MDAQMD looks forward to building more relationships with the residents, leaders and schools in Blythe, Camacho and Haprov closed with special grants and youth opportunities that students from the Palo Verde Unified School District (PVUSD) may be interested in.
“We receive $4 from every Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) registration within our state to fund outreach and education within our district,” said Haprov. “It’s our job to come out and tell people there is an air pollution problem and that we’re working to fix it, and here’s what we’re doing, but we’d like for you all to be a part of that by coming out and participating in our youth events and projects in Apply Valley. If a large enough number of you would like to participate, we have a grant that we can use to get you there.”
For more information about educational outreach and ways MDAQMD serve public, private and home schools in the Blythe area, please visit: http://meeconline.com/teachers/scholarships-grants/