Ozone puts SLO County high on list for pollution

The American Lung Association has again listed San Luis Obispo County as one of the most ozone-polluted areas in the country due to high readings at two monitoring stations in the eastern part of the county.

The group ranked the county as the 11th most polluted of 277 metropolitan areas in the nation. Larry Allen, county air pollution control officer, said the annual ranking is misleading because 99 percent of the county’s residents live far away from the pollution — and breathe healthy air.

“It kind of paints the county with a broad brush,” he said.

The discrepancy is due to two monitoring stations in the sparsely populated eastern part of the county on the Carrizo Plain and at Red Hills that account for almost all of the high ozone readings. Those two stations receive ozone transported from the Central Valley, Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area.

This year’s ranking is a slight improvement over last year’s because the county had 5 1⁄2 fewer days of bad ozone readings. Last year, the county was listed as having the ninth-worst ozone level.

Ironically, the American Lung Association gives the county good rankings on dust pollution. But it is dust pollution that most often makes the news. Sand particles blowing off the Oceano Dunes have caused poor air quality on the Nipomo Mesa.

County air pollution and state parks officials are experimenting with ways to reduce this dust problem.