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Release Date: 8/7/2001
Contact Information: Wendy L. Chavez, U.S. EPA, 415/744-1450

     SAN FRANCISCO   The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced it has opened the public comment period for two proposed findings for Imperial County's air quality rating.

     The first proposal finds that Imperial County has met a federal Clean Air Act deadline for particulate matter, or dust, by 1994, based on a County demonstration that the area would have attained air quality standards aside from the emissions from Mexico.
     The second alternative proposal would be finalized if the county's attainment demonstration is found to be inadequate.  The EPA will reclassify Imperial County's air quality rating from moderate to serious nonattainment of the health standard.  A serious nonattainment rating may require the county to install more stringent measures that will reduce the amount of dust in the air.
     The EPA is seeking public comment on the proposal.  The public comment period will run for 30 days following publication in the Federal Register.

     "Imperial County experiences the highest rates of asthma in children within the state of California," said Amy Zimpfer, Deputy Director of the EPA's Air division for the Pacific Southwest office.  "It is critical for us to hear from the public on the issue of dust control in the communities of Imperial County."    

    Regardless of the EPA's final decision on the dust status, the county must prepare a revised dust control plan for the agency's approval.  The county currently has an initial draft plan for public review, which includes additional measures to control dust.    

     Particulate matter affects the respiratory system and can cause damage to lung tissue and premature death. The elderly, children, and people with chronic lung disease, influenza, or asthma are especially sensitive to high levels of particulate matter.

     The primary cause of particulate matter is wind blown dust from unpaved parking lots and roads, disturbed vacant lands, agricultural fields and construction sites.

     Today's proposed action is, in part, a response to a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club, seeking to compel EPA to determine whether certain nonattainment areas, including Imperial County, had attained the 1-hour ozone or PM-10 federal air quality standards.

     More information on the Imperial County's draft dust control plan can be obtained at the Imperial County offices or by calling (760) 482-4606.

     Further information about this proposal will soon be available online at under Air Programs.  Written comments on the proposal may be sent to Doris Lo, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9, Air Division Planning Office (Air-2), 75 Hawthorne Street, San Francisco, California, 94105.  

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