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$18,500 awarded for ozone research

At 2:30 p.m. Friday, Grass Valley had the highest ozone levels in Northern California, according to http://www.sparetheair.com.

That and the 103-degree heat that helps form ozone kept Marina Bernheimer indoors for much of the day with her two young children. Bernheimer is one of the founders of Save the Air in Nevada County, recently formed by parents and doctors alarmed by the growing number of people moving away to find cleaner air.

The air district that oversees Nevada, Sierra and Plumas counties recently awarded Save the Air in Nevada County $18,500 for education and outreach programs and to identify solutions to ozone problems.



The group wants to use grant money to organize school carpooling this fall to reduce vehicle emissions within the county.

On bad days like Friday, Bernheimer said, she seriously considers moving away herself, even though she and her family recently purchased their first home and love the community. She said she feels “duped” that nobody told her how the bad the air was when she moved here.




Earlier this year, the American Lung Association rated the area the 13th worst in the nation for ozone levels.

This summer, she plans to beat the poor air by vacationing four weeks out of the county.

“If we do that, we can cut our exposure,” Bernheimer said.

An air quality advisory was issued on Thursday, but ozone levels stayed several points beneath the unhealthy level for sensitive groups.

“We have a lot of days that are just below the standard,” said Sam Longmire, of the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District

He said a shift in winds will cause the ozone levels to drop to moderate over the weekend.

Possible lawsuit

STA in NC sent a letter to the California Air Resources Board on June 20 that some members have called a “precursor to litigation.” The letter demands the state look at air quality on a statewide level and consider stricter standards suggested by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA’s proposal would drop the standard from .08 parts per million to .07 parts per million. Such a reduction would double the number of unhealthy days in the foothills, said Longmire.

STA in NC recently ordered a pair of portable ozone monitors costing $4,000 each, using thousands of donated dollars. The air quality district will help the group calibrate the machines to be sure the data collected is valid.

“People are just throwing money at us,” said Bernheimer.

The group also hopes to buy a permanent monitor for Penn Valley as recommended by a 2004 Nevada County Grand Jury report to better understand how ozone and particulates move into the area from the Sacramento Valley.

Now, one permanent monitoring station on the Litton Building in Grass Valley provides the western county with ozone level readings.

“We want to have a better picture of how ozone functions in various places,” Bernheimer said.

On July 23, STA in NC will hold an evening meeting for parents, “Living with Ozone: Keeping Children Safe.” The location of the meeting will be announced on the group’s Web site, http://www.stainnc.org.

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To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail lbrown@theunion.com or call 477-4231.


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