Berkeley Air Quality Studies

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Harrison Park air warning


What was true in 1999 is still true today (more than fifteen years later) regarding West Berkeley air quality issues.

From the occasional refinery fire to the ongoing development of the San Francisco Basin, more and more questions are now being raised regarding air quality assurance in Berkeley. How do we sustain a clean air environment when industry's smokestacks and residential housing are forced to coexist?

For more than a quarter of a century, this conflict has been played out in the Oceanview District of Northwest Berkeley.  Oceanview is an extremely polluted and odorous area, where new micro breweries and old steel foundries are mixed in with a growing community of nearby residents, cafes, offices, and preschools.

Add to this the more than two hundred fifty thousand cars passing upwind of West Berkeley each day through the Interstate 80 highway and you can begin to understand the extent of the problem. Today the high level of local airborne contaminants is signaling the existence of a serious regulatory imbalance and a growing community health crisis. Our Zoning ordinances have lagged far behind the rapidly advancing gentrification of the area.

Most of us understand that any environmental sampling, whether soil, water or air, often involves more than science because of prevailing business and political interests. It should come as no surprise that these influences have defined most environmental investigations  in Berkeley as much as the regulatory sciences. Historically, these forces have handpicked the "experts" to investigate and have set the budgets in a regulatory process that has little public oversight. Consequently, air monitoring schemes often vary greatly.

On the following pages are a half dozen air monitoring "studies". Most of these investigations were produced for the City of Berkeley. In retrospect, it has become clear that the intent of the air samplings was to do little more than to shield the city and certain businesses from public scrutiny while adding to the confusion over the airborne pollutants and their possible health effects. 

However, there is something to be learned by the interested reader within each report. It is recommended that you also look at the website's Air Monitoring section. It represents perhaps the only truly honest attempt to understand the dynamics of Northwest Berkeley's pollution. It is also the only study undertaken by the local citizens, totally outside the control of the city and business interests.


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