So how polluted is our air? That is a very interesting question. It depends on what you are looking for, and as these stories make clear, a primary problem are the tiny particulates. Well guess what? We lack inadequate information on this type of pollution and received no score. We received an “A” for ozone pollution, and based on that, the NWCAA [Northwest Clean Air Agency] is bragging that Bellingham has been listed among the cleanest air cities. That is because it is not looking at wood smoke, transportation exhausts, and other sources of tiny particulates.
According to this report for Whatcom County:
“If you live in Whatcom County, the air you breathe needs your support.”
Particle Pollution 24-hour: INC: Incomplete: If the county lacks three years of data, then the information is listed as “incomplete.”
Particle Pollution Annual:INC: Incomplete: If the county lacks three years of data, then the information is listed as “incomplete.”
What we do know is that those small particulates are the greatest environmental health risk for county residents and their primary source is from traffic and burning wood.
So the big question is why the county has incomplete information. This is one of many reasons that I think the county needs to retain its police powers to monitor and regulate air quality problems in excess of the standards that NWCAA has created. It has the authority to ban all outdoor fires because the nexus between public health and safety is so clearly established by science, and the GMA [Growth Management Act] gives the county jurisdiction over air quality issues. As long as we are regulating below the Clean Air Act standards it is fine. (The city has this authority as well, and really need to do something with regard to the impacts from infill).
In the environmental chapter of the comp. plan [Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan], the county tries to abdicate any responsibility over air quality and we must speak out against that and ask for stronger policies.
If you have a comment for the Whatcom County Council, which is currently reviewing the Comprehensive Plan, you can send an email to this address: firstname.lastname@example.org