After a horrendous ozone season, where several monitors recorded more violations than preceding years, the Air Board scrambled to lessen the damage. The Air Board hates to see air pollution levels rising above previous year’s levels because it shows the public they are not doing their job.
They found a scapegoat in the Ash Mtn ozone monitor located just above the town of Three Rivers at the entrance to Kings Canyon National Park in Tulare County. This monitor is at an elevation of 1800 ft and about 1400 ft above the valley floor in Visalia. It recorded more than a dozen violations of the ozone standard this past year when other monitors in Fresno and Bakersfield were showing levels slightly below the standard. The reason for this is obvious in that ozone pollution can build up to the east of the valley floor and it does not dissipate very easily during the evening. The Air Board also blamed the Lower Kaweah monitor for solo violations during this time but it either had none or one and is located several thousand feet higher on the Western slopes of the Sierra Nevada.
The Air Board decided they could lower the number of violations for the air basin by ignoring this monitor’s readings but they needed a reason. There happened to be the Lion Fire high in the Sierra last summer that was allowed to burn under control for a couple months since the smoke was entirely blowing away from the valley and into the Kern River Basin. After the fact, the Air Board decided to blame the solo ozone violations recorded by the Ash Mtn monitor on this fire. This decreased the number of violations by 15 or 16 and made the ozone season look much better than it really had been.
The title of this post suggests this is the second biggest Air Board coverup of 2011. What was the biggest? The removal of the Arvin Bear Mtn monitor and the pretense that this action had no effect on the number of one-hour or 8-hour ozone violations recorded in the valley.
Here is a cross section drawing of the valley which shows the insanity of the claim that the Ash Mtn monitor is not relevant to ozone levels on the valley floor where people live.