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San Diego Officials Move Forward With Clean Air Plan

The Barrio Logan community sign near the Cesar Chavez Campus, Oct. 28, 2015.
San Diego Community College District
The Barrio Logan community sign near the Cesar Chavez Campus, Oct. 28, 2015.

San Diego Air Pollution regulators approved a plan designed to clean up neighborhoods that have long suffered with dirty air.

Barrio Logan, National City and San Ysidro endure some of the most polluted air in California.

California officials list the communities on the CalEnviroScreen rankings as being in the top five percent of the most polluted neighborhoods in the state.


The rankings are compiled by the California office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

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Those neighborhoods have high asthma rates and other health related impacts linked directly to dirty air. The threat comes from diesel pollution, industrial pollution and the U.S. Navy which has a number of big facilities around San Diego Bay.

The Air Pollution Control District’s Community Emissions Reduction plan focuses on strategies to help change that.

“Some of them are land-use approaches,” said Joy Williams of the Environmental Health Coalition. “Support for community plans that include buffers between emission sources and the nearest homes and schools for example. There are measures to increase the green canopy in communities.”

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Williams says the Air Board is moving away from catering to industries that generate dangerous emissions.

But industries that generate pollution are frequently a vital part of the local economy. Backers want to protect the local economy as regulators work to clean up the air.

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“What’s the biggest threat?” said Jack Monger, CEO of the Industrial Environmental Organization. “What’s causing the biggest concern to a community itself and then go after that particular source.”

Monger was critical of a change in regulations governing hexavalent chromium, a by product of welding. The element is known to cause cancer and it targets the respiratory system, kidneys, liver and skin.

He says there were last-minute changes in the plan that tightened restrictions.

Monger asked to a delay to discuss the changes, but that request was denied. He says he wants to make sure industry doesn’t stop because of overzealous regulation.

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Pollution does not always come from where people expect.

“One of the surprising things we learned is that a lot of emissions come off of San Diego Bay. That then drift across this port side community and head eastward,” Monger said.

Adoption of the plan is the beginning of a process that could lead to real change for neighborhoods that have long struggled to take a breath of clean air.