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The highest PM2.5 value recorded in December was 57.4 ppm. In previous years, highest values have reached in the 60s and 70s. The Portola area continues to see a downward trend in average daily values as can be seen in this table. The chart is busy, but the 2015 dark red trendline and the 2019 blue trendline are worth noting, according to Julie Ruiz of the Air District. Graph courtesy of Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District

December air quality shows little improvement

The Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District reported on air quality for the last month of 2019, with a total of eight days over the standard set by the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for particulates.

The Air District monitors air quality at three different sites in Plumas County (Portola, Quincy, and Chester) specifically measuring fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, which is in the air primarily due to combustion.

The eight days of exceedances in air quality matches up with the number of exceedances recorded in December of 2018, adding up to little or no improvement in air quality this past month, according to Julie Ruiz of the Air District.

“This is disappointing, since there was measurable improvement in air quality last month,” Ruiz said.

The highest PM2.5 value recorded in December 2019 was 57.4 ppm, with values reaching easily into the 60s and 70s in previous years.

Ruiz noted that weather patterns greatly influence particulate levels, and that only 2.5 inches of rainfall was recorded in Portola during December, as opposed to the 9.5 inches recorded in Quincy.

This region is expected to be slightly warmer and slightly drier than normal through April, per the Northern California GACC, 1-2-20.

Clear the air, check before you light

The annual Check the Air wintertime program began Nov. 1. However, the Long Valley Charter School and the Air District continue with the EPA Air Quality Flag Program all year.

Students raise a flag daily to notify the public of expected air quality. Suggested actions to protect health are described based on the flag color, known as the Air Quality Index.

There were three voluntary curtailment days in December when the yellow flag was flown to ask residents to refrain from burning wood, if possible.

During these days, a wintertime health advisory was issued, and notice was posted on the Air District website and on a recorded information line at 832-4067.

Greater Portola Wood Stove Change-Out program

As of Dec. 30, 458 applications have been received for the change out program, with 429 pre-approval letters sent out and 360 new wood stove installations complete.

For more information on how to participate in the program, or for any other air quality questions and concerns, contact Julie Ruiz from the Air District at 832-0102.

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