EPA's Jared Blumenfeld visits Central Valley

Published on
February 3, 2012

On the final day of a 3-day tour of the Central Valley that started in Stockton and ended in Tulare County, the Environmental Protection Agency's Region 9 Director Jared Blumenfeld touted $21 million that would help build cleaner communities.

Jared Blumenfeld takes a short walk in Tulare County community of Orosi on Jan. 25.

In 2011, the American Lung Association ranked four south Valley communites as the most-polluted for year-round particulate matter.

1. Bakersfield-Delano (south valley)

2. Los Angeles-Long Beach and Riverside

3. Hanford-Corcoran (south valley)

Blumenfeld announced $5 million to help clean the air in the San Joaquin Valley. While in Stockon, he posed for photos atop a restructured locomotive with a cleaner burning engine. In Orosi and Seville, both in Tulare County, he also heard residents talk about the poor quality of water.I spoke with Blumenfeld earlier in the day at Fresno State, where he heard students and faculty talk about small water systems in the San Joaquin Valley. Not down-playing the issue of safe drinking water and the intrusion of arsenic and nitrates, not in the least, but for the sake of my Fellowship on Asthma, I just had to ask Blumenfeld about air quality.

"When you meet with people in rural California, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley, the people really want to find out, first of all, what are the issues? Is my environment polluted? Tell me about my air, my water. What we're announcing in the Valley at the moment is $21 million that's going to the Valley and southern California to take that old diesel engine out of a tractor, take it out of a locomotive, and replace it with a clean one."

Much of the funding will retrofit more locomotives throughout the Valley. The retrofit locomotive will operate a line between Stockton and Lodi. It will reduce emission by about 90 percent. According to report released by the EPA, about 9,000 people die prematurely each year from exposure to pollutants. Diesel engines continue as the most prominent health risks in California.