A billboard in rural Tracy with the face of a local county supervisor asks drivers to rethink how they get around, which is part of a campaign organizers hope will save the county from a $30 million penalty.
The billboard, alongside eastbound 11th Street west of Bird Road, depicts San Joaquin County District 5 Supervisor Bob Elliott and the message, "Make One Change — Carpool."
It was erected in early August by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District in hopes of lowering vehicle emissions in the valley.
The executive director of the pollution control district, Seyed Sadredin, said the district is close to achieving its goal of no emission violations for 2013.
If any county in the district exceeds the federal one-hour ozone standard more than three times within three years, all the counties are liable to pay the annual $30 million penalty, which the district would pay through vehicle registration fees.
Three violations were recorded in late September 2011 at the Drummond monitoring station in Fresno, Sadredin said.
The cause, in part, was pollution generated in the northern portion of the valley and blown south by wind currents, he said.
Although San Joaquin County had zero violations in the last three years, it has the second highest levels of mononitrogen oxide emissions, which are key ingredients in ozone.
"We’re at the point where we’ve had a good summer," he said. "We’re asking the public to drive less and asking people not to drive their children to school and idle their cars."
The awareness campaign kicks into full force for the back-to-school months, mid-August through the end of September. It’s a period when the valley is most at risk of having high levels of emissions, even as summer weather traps pollution in the area.
"We’re at the critical crunch time with school traffic and (high) temperatures," Sadredin said. "We’re asking parents, if you want to drive to school, have neighbors carpool to have four to five kids (in the vehicle), as opposed to everyone driving their own vehicle. We want everybody to avoid driving single-person vehicles."
The region is also home to the state’s major arteries for movement of goods and people, including Interstate 5, which attracts a high volume of traffic.
Residents can create less air pollution by carpooling, taking mass transit, bicycling or walking, avoiding idling and planning errands so they can be achieved all in one vehicle trip.
To encourage people to rethink their transportation choices, the district initiated its clean air campaign this month with billboards and community service advertisements on television and radio.
Elliott said he was made part of the campaign as the county representative.
"It’s to get people aware of the little actions they can do to reduce emissions," Elliott said. "We all want to be good stewards of the environment, and we want to avoid paying these fines. If there’s something I can do to help us get out from under those fines, it’s a good thing to do it."
For information about the Healthy Air Living campaign, go to www.healthyairliving.com.
• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.