How safe is the air in Orange County for residents to breathe when crude oil spills ashore?
As an asphalt smell lingers in the Orange County air, there are unanswered questions – and looming alarms – about whether it is safe to breathe near what has become a spill. of one hundred thousand gallon oil off the coast.
Residents online and speaking to Voice of OC said they started smelling fumes as early as Friday, but there was a long delay in getting information on the cause.
Oil spill information
- General questions: 714-374-1702
- Stay away from affected wildlife, report: 877-823-6926
- Help with animals: 714-374-5587
- Cleaning assistance: 714-374-1702
- File a complaint: 866-985-8366
The Orange County coast has some air quality monitoring systems, but it is unclear what these systems are lacking compared to four more complex permanent air quality stations installed in cities. Anaheim, La Habra and Mission Viejo.
Air quality officials – in response to Voice of OC questions about it in October last year – said they had historically not seen the need for such monitoring along from the coast, so the permanent stations are located further inland.
On Monday, South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) officials said they had deployed mobile air quality monitoring systems along the coast.
Although the crisis may not only affect coastal residents.
“As long as we don’t have winds from Santa Ana, then yes, the winds will blow from this oil spill on our inland communities.”
Dr Kathleen Treseder, professor of biology at UC Irvine
“I don’t know what can be in that plume of air, but I’ve seen people report on Twitter and Facebook that they can smell the asphalt… enough that it bothers them, and I guess that if they can smell them particles, there are probably components that we really should be considering and (they can) potentially be harmful, ”Treseder added.
In addition to this, the potential of the southbound oil slick to remove local microbes from ocean water, which help remove air pollution, means that the effect of the disaster on the quality of air can surface on more than one front.
Namely, ocean microbes in Orange County’s last remaining – and at risk – coastal wetlands help convert nutrients and pollutants “into forms that are often benign for us.” If they are eliminated, we might not see these conversions occur.
Treseder said it has not yet been determined what kind of danger, exactly, the slick poses to wetlands and these small marine life – but that it and others at the UCI have sent sampling teams on Monday to assess the water.
“One of the things that actually worries me the most is that wetlands are very important for removing nitrogen pollution, and nitrogen is what causes algal blooms, if they do. are removed… nitrogen that was converted to gas in benign forms could travel to the ocean and this could make the situation worse.
The smell of asphalt filled Newport Beach resident Susan Skinner’s nose on Friday morning as she was swimming.
“It smelled of tar, asphalt. I thought they had to resurface on the street, a little weird, ”she said.
Newport Beach resident Susan Skinner
Then she could smell him across the bay, driving to her mother’s house later that day.
“It was clear that something serious was going on,” she said, adding that she was driving on Newport Coast Road when she saw spots in the water. “He had a different look and appearance, it was pretty awful.”
Since then, the Orange County coastline has all but closed due to a 126,000 gallon oil spill (Sunday morning), the cause of which is still unclear but is now raising concerns over whether residents of nearby coastal areas could breathe. harmful air.
In the hours and days that followed, Skinner said there had been a lot of frustration over the delay in getting the information out to residents who might breathe in all that toxic air afterward.
“I heard a lot of frustration that there appears to have been a delay in responses,” Skinner said, adding that residents were initially told authorities were looking into the matter but “didn’t never heard anything more “.
“People I spoke to were frustrated that it looked like a pretty substantial smell and that there were no answers about it, it came to us right away,” Skinner said.
“Everyone in my Orange County neighborhood has been talking about the smell of asphalt or gas in the air since Friday. We thought it was kerosene from the Pacific Air Show. I was surfing in Huntington on Saturday. They didn’t. ‘the oil spill announced that Sunday morning. Wild,’ one person wrote in a Monday tweet.
Currently, the South Coast Air Quality Management District does not have official and regulatory air controllers in coastal towns in Orange County.
“The monitoring locations are based on the maximum expected concentration of ozone and PM2.5,” district spokesman Bradley Whitaker said in response to questions from Voice of OC in October last year to this subject.
“The highest concentrations of ozone and PM2.5 tend to be found inland. Orange County generally measures lower concentrations than the rest of the basin and therefore has fewer monitors. “
Asked about the current lack of regulatory air monitors in the district in light of the oil spill, Whitaker said in an email that “South Coast AQMD has deployed mobile surveillance along the coast.”