Air Pollution Control District board to discuss Oceano Dunes dust

The county Air Pollution Control District board Wednesday will discuss the best approach to take with the State Parks Department to reduce particulate pollution on the Nipomo Mesa.

The discussion will not identify specific steps to reduce the dust pollution, said Larry Allen, county air pollution control officer. Those will come later.

Instead, the board will discuss three options for working with parks officials to solve the problem. They range from voluntary to mandatory, Allen said.

The county air board consists of all five county supervisors and a representative from each of the county’s seven municipalities.

A recent scientific study concluded that Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area is a major contributor to unhealthy particulate levels on the Mesa.

The three options under consideration are:

• Ask that State Parks voluntarily identify control measures it will take to reduce dust pollution. This would be a quick and simple approach, but would be difficult to enforce.

• Develop a memorandum of agreement with State Parks. This, too, would be relatively quick to prepare and would have the added advantage of being a legally binding contract.

• Include Oceano Dunes in the county’s fugitive dust management program. The air board would develop specific particulate control measures that parks managers would be required to implement. This regulatory approach would be the most difficult and could take six to eight months to complete, but it would give the air district enforcement authority.

Particulate pollution on the Mesa is proving to be a divisive issue.

Mesa residents frequently complain to county supervisors, claiming that they are suffering from a variety of health problems as a result of the dust.

However, elected officials in the Five Cities area are concerned about damage to their economies if additional riding restrictions are imposed in the park. Various groups, including State Parks, have also challenged the scientific validity of the air study.

The study concluded that off-highway vehicle riding causes sand particles to become more easily airborne because it destabilizes the Dunes and strips them of vegetation.

Possible ways to deal with this include installing wind fences, replanting the Dunes and implementing a system to warn Mesa residents when strong winds will make conditions unhealthy.

Reach David Sneed at 781-7930.

Dunes air study hearing Wednesday

The county Air Pollution Control District board is set to discuss how to work with State Parks on the Nipomo Mesa-Oceano Dunes particulate-pollution study when it meets at 9 a.m. Wednesday at San Luis Obispo City Hall’s Council Chambers, 990 Palm St.