Data shows Richmond air quality on par with most Bay Area cities

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Air quality in Richmond is comparable to Marin County and most other Bay Area cities, according to an analysis of monitoring data from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD).

The analysis shows steps taken in recent decades to reduce emissions in the region have proven to be successful. BAAQMD is the government agency responsible for regulating sources of pollution within the nine county Bay Area region.

Additionally, a recent analysis comparing data from the Richmond Community Air Monitoring Program (RCAMP) to BAAQMD air monitoring data by independent firm Argos Scientific shows that Richmond’s air quality is “as good as the rest of the Bay Area”.

Unlike a half-century ago, when emissions of toxic pollutants were unmonitored, Richmond now has multiple state-of-the-art air monitoring stations around the city assessing air quality 24 hours daily. Six of those stations are operated under the RCAMP, a partnership between the Chevron Richmond Refinery, Argos Scientific and the City of Richmond, and another two by the BAAQMD.

The RCAMP stations became fully operational in 2014 and monitor air emissions along the refinery’s fence line and in surrounding neighborhoods – Point Richmond, Atchison Village and North Richmond. The stations track emissions for nearly two dozen pollutants, including particulate matter, black carbon, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and volatile organic compounds. Residents can view the monitoring in real-time online.

The RCAMP monitoring stations are designed to detect pollution coming from any source in the Bay Area and will trigger an alarm if detections rise above health limits.

A trend analysis recently conducted by Argos Scientific is consistent with data collected by the BAAQMD and finds that for monitored pollutants levels are better than state and federal health standards.

Measurements show the air in Richmond is protective of long-term health for chemicals often cited by community members as a public concern.
Measurements show the air in Richmond is protective of long-term health for chemicals often cited by community members as a public concern.

Additionally the BAAQMD analysis found that air pollutants of most concern, such as particulate matter, are mostly caused by wood burning during the winter months, wild fires during summer months and mobile sources such as vehicles, trains and ships, an issue that is being seen Bay Area-wide.

Spikes and high detections of particulate matter from the RCAMP monitoring stations coincide with Bay Area-wide Spare the Air alerts. Spare the Air is a BAAQMD program created to “reduce air pollution and provide advance notice when air quality is forecast to be unhealthy”.

“Based on meteorological data, many of the spikes or high detections recorded by the air monitoring instruments are not associated with the Chevron Richmond Refinery,” said Don Gamiles with Argos Scientific. “What we are finding from the review of data from the air monitoring stations is that Richmond’s air quality is consistently good and far  below health standards set by the State of California and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”

These findings dispute allegations by some that the Chevron Richmond Refinery is the city’s main source of particulate matter pollution, or even a significant source. In fact, according to BAAQMD data industrial and commercial sources, which include all five Bay Area refineries, account for just 7 percent of particulate matter emissions in the region.

BAAQMD data shows industrial and commercial sources, which include all five Bay Area refineries, account for just 7 percent of particulate matter emissions.
BAAQMD data shows industrial and commercial sources, which include all five Bay Area refineries, account for just 7 percent of particulate matter emissions.

“Over the years, Chevron has made significant investments to improve the performance of the refinery and minimize its impact on the environment,” said Steven Yang, an Environmental Specialist at the Chevron Richmond Refinery. “By installing more modern technology and running more efficiently, we’ve reduced criteria air emissions by 86% since the 1970s. And our refinery modernization project will make us even newer, safer and cleaner.”

(Note: top image of sky and clouds is courtesy of apidach.jsw/shutterstock.com)

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