Imperial County Air Pollution Control

For Immediate Release
June 23, 2020

Imperial County Air Pollution Control District – Notices of Violation Issued at the Salton Sea’s Red Hill Bay to Protect Public Health

IMPERIAL COUNTY – Today, Imperial County Air Pollution Control District (ICAPCD) issued Notices of Violation (NOVs) to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (US FWS) for failure to implement adequate dust control on the Salton Sea playa on the Red Hill Bay Project near Calipatria, California, and the landowner, Imperial Irrigation District (IID). ICAPCD issued these violation notices to protect the public’s health and safety. Air pollution violations can result in substantial financial penalties.

US FWS and IID have failed to maintain adequate dust controls, which violates ICAPCD Rules 401, 801, and 804 that establish performance requirements for construction/earthmoving activities and open areas. An additional violation was issued to US FWS for failure to comply with the conformity provisions of the Federal Clean Air Act and ICAPCD Rule 925. ICAPCD is committed to working with IID and US FWS to bring them into compliance as soon as possible.

Located near the Southeast corner of the Salton Sea, Red Hill Bay is the site of a habitat restoration project (“RHB Project”) aimed at creating hundreds of acres of shallow marine wetlands and reducing airborne dust from exposed playa caused by a receding Salton Sea. The RHB Project is a joint effort between the landowner, IID and the operator, US FWS. Since 2016, construction of the habitat restoration project has been sporadic, causing numerous instances of elevated levels of airborne dust. As of June 2020, the site is still producing multiple events of excessive airborne dust violating ICAPCD rules, threatening public health and safety.

According to the California Air Resources Control Board (CARB), small airborne dust particles deposit on the surfaces of the larger airways of the upper region of the lung. Particles deposited on the lung surface can induce tissue damage, and lung inflammation. Exposure to small dust particles are associated with worsening of respiratory diseases, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), leading to hospitalization and emergency department visits.  Older adults with chronic heart or lung disease, children and asthmatics are more likely to experience adverse health effects. Also, children and infants are susceptible to harm from inhaling fine dust particles because they inhale more air per pound of body weight than do adults – they breathe faster, spend more time outdoors and have smaller body sizes. In addition, children’s immature immune systems may cause them to be more susceptible to particulate matter than healthy adults.

For several years, ICAPCD has been collaborating with various stakeholders, notably IID, on addressing air pollution caused by the receding Salton Sea shoreline.  Although progress has been made in assessing ways to reduce airborne dust from the playa and developing projects that reduce dust, real progress on protecting public health will only occur if those responsible for controlling airborne dust on the playa follow through on their commitments and adhere to the requirements of ICAPCD’s rules.  With the issuance of these NOVs, ICAPCD is taking the necessary steps to protect human health and the environment.

If you have any questions, please contact APCD staff Reyes Romero or Katie Burnworth at (442) 265-1800.

Leave a Reply