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U.S. EPA announces Imperial Valley Air Quality Reclassification

Release Date: 8/4/2004
Contact Information: Francisco Arcaute, (213)244-1815

  Change in designation will help improve air quality

  LOS ANGELES -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency signed a final rule today complying with a recent court order to reclassify Imperial County, Calif., from a "moderate" to a "serious" particulate matter, or "dust," nonattainment area.  

  The EPA also signed a proposed rule today to clarify air planning obligations for Imperial County.  Combined, the rules will require Imperial County, which has exceeded national particulate matter standards for many years, to submit an air quality plan to the EPA with details for reducing particulate matter within the county.

  "Imperial County has one of the most complex air quality problems in California," said Wayne Nastri, the EPA's regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest region.  "Today's rules will provide a solid foundation on which the county and state can build an effective clean air plan."

     In Imperial County, elevated particulate matter levels can result from many sources, including transport from Mexico and from disturbance of soils by wind and human activity.  Common sources include unpaved roads, waste burning, agriculture, and other activities along the U.S.-Mexico border.

    Many scientific studies have linked breathing particulate matter to significant health problems, including aggravated asthma, increases in respiratory symptoms, chronic bronchitis, and premature death.  particulate matter is also associated with increased hospital and emergency room visits for people with heart and lung disease, absences from work and school, and reduced visibility.  

    Imperial County is located in the Southeastern portion of California and borders Mexicali, Mexico.  The principal industries in Imperial County are agriculture and commercial trade.

     Today's final rule is required by a recent Ninth Circuit Court Order mandating that the EPA reclassify the Imperial Valley to "serious" PM-10 nonattainment. The EPA is also proposing today to formally find that Imperial Valley failed to attain the national PM-10 standard by Dec. 31, 2001 -- the Clean Air Act's required deadline for "serious" PM-10 nonattainment areas.  The proposed rule generally describes the necessary plan requirements and would require Imperial County submit its clean air plan within one year of the final action.  The EPA will take comment for 30 days before taking final action on this rule.

    The EPA expects both rules to be published on the same day within the next two weeks.  More information will be available on the Web at: http://www.epa.gov/region09/air/imperial/