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1977 San Diego guide to foul air

Alpine the worst, then Kearny Mesa, Oceanside, El Cajon, Chula Vista

You’ve got a headache. Your eyes and throat are burning, your vision is blurred, you’re tired, dizzy, and have difficulty breathing. As if they weren’t enough, your nose is running. Now, where are you?

Assuming you aren’t trying a Houdini from inside a locked, canvas mailbag stuffed with the pungent, stiffening hose of 27 mailmen, you could actually be somewhere in sunny San Diego County.

Though the nice people at the County Air Pollution Control District are quick to note that “we’re in good shape for Southern California,” they admit that our county “doesn’t have what the government considers technically clean air.” Nitpickers that they are, the federal government considers air clean only if it contains less than 8 parts of “pollutant concentration” per 100 million (8 pphm). These pollutants are available in a variety of flavors, such as photochemical oxidants, or ozone; carbon monoxide; nitrogen dioxide; sulfur dioxide; lead; flour-ides; hydrocarbons, and all manner of “particulates,” which are little chunks of things hovering about in your breathing space. Over 2,000 tons of these manmade pollutants befoul the air of San Diego County every day. They are the smoke, fumes, vapors, gases, dust, and ash which are the byproducts of a large metropolitan area doing its thing.

Our major problem here, as in other areas of Southern California, is good old ozone. Ozone is the end product of a photochemical process involving hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen—which come primarily from motor vehicles— and the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Normally, the wind pushes this stuff up into the atmosphere where it’s dispersed. Sometimes, however, a quaint meteorological phenomenon called a temperature inversion keeps the pollution downstairs in our air space. What happens is this: a “lid” of warm air forms above the cooler and heavier air near the ground. This lid traps all of those good hydrocarbons and other elements of the smog recipe. While this junk is floating there, the sun kicks in and fries it into ozone.

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In San Diego County last year, violations of the federal 8 pphm oxidant standard “increased substantially” over those of 1975. We went above the magic figure on 170 days of calendar year 1976, compared with 126 violation days in 1975. But it was the weather, say the folks at the APCD, that really did it to us last year. First there were the Santa Anas which “transported” pollutants down here from Los Angeles. Then we had a record low rainfall, high temperatures, and “above normal sunshine,” none of which seems to be good for air laced with oxidants. We were also blessed with a batch of particulate emissions from “unregulated sources in the Tijuana area.”

Regarding overall air quality, some sections of the county are better off than others. As a general rule, the inland areas are a little more polluted than the coastal areas. The air over downtown San Diego scored the lowest number of violations, while scenic Alpine, which sits right at the temperature inversion level of 2,000 feet, and is directly downwind from metropolitan San Diego, is quite often a great place to choke.

Last year’s ozone figures might help explain why your dog always coughs when the two of you cruise through Escondido. They exceeded the standards up there 97 times. Those same figures reveal that Kearny Mesa chalked up 79 violation days; Oceanside had 69; El Cajon, 60; Chula Vista blew it 48 times; with downtown San Diego squeaking in with a mere 45. Alpine gassed everyone else off the ozone chart with a top score of 123 days over the standard. Remember, however, that there are all sorts of polluting agents mixing and mingling in the air currents out there. Some places may prove to be just lousy with ozone, but clean as a whistle of particulates, if that’s at all reassuring.

Finally, there are those more delicate problems of an olfactory nature. Here we enter the area of the rank, putrid, and truly foul. For example, you need no statistic from a County Monotoring Station to tell you that Ocean Beach has quite a dog population. The evidence is there all around you, often at your feet. Brighton Street, between Abbott Street and the beach, leaps to mind as a fine example of a primeval minefield of fecal leavings. On a good sunny day when the air is still, the place even gags the flies.

Traveling south on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, you could get a good whiff of some decomposing kelp right around the Natural Arch at Osprey Street. In the words of a local fisherman. “It gets pretty ripe out here some days.”

You may be offended, as are some Logan Heights area residents, by the inimitable aromas of the Sun Harbor Cannery. An APCD investigator notes that the company recently installed a highly sophisticated “scrubber” in an attempt to come to terms with the problem.

There is a serious “funk” problem regarding the less-than-heavenly odors wafting off of the Prohoroff Chicken Farms in San Marcos. Some citizens do not take kindly to the diesel exhaust fumes they are forced to gulp when stuck behind a badly tuned behemoth of the Aztec Bus Lines. Then there is the lingering effluvia of La Jolla’s C’est Cheese, which is quite a nostril shock to those unfamiliar with the world of “high” cheeses.

Seeley Stable in Old Town is a great spot to get homesick if you’re a tourist from Kansas, or if your name is Ed and your lips wiggle a lot when you talk.

The area around the railroad tracks at Washington Street and Pacific Highway – very near the American Agar Company – gets to smelling like a skunk’s undies from time to time, and is a rotten spot to have to wait for a bus, or for anything.

The “Biffy” port-a-johns at the top of the stairs at Leucadia s beach are pretty choice on most Saturday afternoons. As a result, many bathers swear by the ocean.

Spanish Landing, one of the most visually charming spots in San Diego, is a great place to make a killing selling clothespins. The Spanish may have landed there, but once they got a snort of the air, they split in a hurry.

But in terms of unsullied, down-home revulsion, there are few places on earth more hideous or putrid than the “restrooms” at the Tijuana border. There are smells in those pits which are beyond the range of the human nose. Grisly reports of wriggling packs of “killer maggots” are told by border bathroom veterans. Tow-ropes are advised.

Of course, there are probably hundreds of examples of malodorous scents, pungencies, and essences which, though more public nuisance dian pollutant, contribute zilch to the soul, and sour many a potential romance. Such nasal treats are to be found in all parts of the county. They may be marsh areas, septic ranks, open sewers, tidepools, sanitary fills, manure spreads, deceased wildlife, egg salad on Wonder bread, public flatulence, or morning mouth. Hardly tasteful topics, but we all know and probably contribute to at least some of them.

But there is cause for hope. For one thing, we do not live in Steubenville, Ohio. The new cars and the encouraging muscle in emission standards reflect the growing concern over the quality of our air. Cigarette puffers are being told where to pack those smokes. Lifestyles are changing. Folks are a lot freer with their Trident than they used to be. And over at the Air Pollution Control District, the feeling is somewhat less frivolous, but “cautiously optimistic.” We can do it if we don’t choke up.

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You’ve got a headache. Your eyes and throat are burning, your vision is blurred, you’re tired, dizzy, and have difficulty breathing. As if they weren’t enough, your nose is running. Now, where are you?

Assuming you aren’t trying a Houdini from inside a locked, canvas mailbag stuffed with the pungent, stiffening hose of 27 mailmen, you could actually be somewhere in sunny San Diego County.

Though the nice people at the County Air Pollution Control District are quick to note that “we’re in good shape for Southern California,” they admit that our county “doesn’t have what the government considers technically clean air.” Nitpickers that they are, the federal government considers air clean only if it contains less than 8 parts of “pollutant concentration” per 100 million (8 pphm). These pollutants are available in a variety of flavors, such as photochemical oxidants, or ozone; carbon monoxide; nitrogen dioxide; sulfur dioxide; lead; flour-ides; hydrocarbons, and all manner of “particulates,” which are little chunks of things hovering about in your breathing space. Over 2,000 tons of these manmade pollutants befoul the air of San Diego County every day. They are the smoke, fumes, vapors, gases, dust, and ash which are the byproducts of a large metropolitan area doing its thing.

Our major problem here, as in other areas of Southern California, is good old ozone. Ozone is the end product of a photochemical process involving hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen—which come primarily from motor vehicles— and the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Normally, the wind pushes this stuff up into the atmosphere where it’s dispersed. Sometimes, however, a quaint meteorological phenomenon called a temperature inversion keeps the pollution downstairs in our air space. What happens is this: a “lid” of warm air forms above the cooler and heavier air near the ground. This lid traps all of those good hydrocarbons and other elements of the smog recipe. While this junk is floating there, the sun kicks in and fries it into ozone.

Sponsored
Sponsored

In San Diego County last year, violations of the federal 8 pphm oxidant standard “increased substantially” over those of 1975. We went above the magic figure on 170 days of calendar year 1976, compared with 126 violation days in 1975. But it was the weather, say the folks at the APCD, that really did it to us last year. First there were the Santa Anas which “transported” pollutants down here from Los Angeles. Then we had a record low rainfall, high temperatures, and “above normal sunshine,” none of which seems to be good for air laced with oxidants. We were also blessed with a batch of particulate emissions from “unregulated sources in the Tijuana area.”

Regarding overall air quality, some sections of the county are better off than others. As a general rule, the inland areas are a little more polluted than the coastal areas. The air over downtown San Diego scored the lowest number of violations, while scenic Alpine, which sits right at the temperature inversion level of 2,000 feet, and is directly downwind from metropolitan San Diego, is quite often a great place to choke.

Last year’s ozone figures might help explain why your dog always coughs when the two of you cruise through Escondido. They exceeded the standards up there 97 times. Those same figures reveal that Kearny Mesa chalked up 79 violation days; Oceanside had 69; El Cajon, 60; Chula Vista blew it 48 times; with downtown San Diego squeaking in with a mere 45. Alpine gassed everyone else off the ozone chart with a top score of 123 days over the standard. Remember, however, that there are all sorts of polluting agents mixing and mingling in the air currents out there. Some places may prove to be just lousy with ozone, but clean as a whistle of particulates, if that’s at all reassuring.

Finally, there are those more delicate problems of an olfactory nature. Here we enter the area of the rank, putrid, and truly foul. For example, you need no statistic from a County Monotoring Station to tell you that Ocean Beach has quite a dog population. The evidence is there all around you, often at your feet. Brighton Street, between Abbott Street and the beach, leaps to mind as a fine example of a primeval minefield of fecal leavings. On a good sunny day when the air is still, the place even gags the flies.

Traveling south on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, you could get a good whiff of some decomposing kelp right around the Natural Arch at Osprey Street. In the words of a local fisherman. “It gets pretty ripe out here some days.”

You may be offended, as are some Logan Heights area residents, by the inimitable aromas of the Sun Harbor Cannery. An APCD investigator notes that the company recently installed a highly sophisticated “scrubber” in an attempt to come to terms with the problem.

There is a serious “funk” problem regarding the less-than-heavenly odors wafting off of the Prohoroff Chicken Farms in San Marcos. Some citizens do not take kindly to the diesel exhaust fumes they are forced to gulp when stuck behind a badly tuned behemoth of the Aztec Bus Lines. Then there is the lingering effluvia of La Jolla’s C’est Cheese, which is quite a nostril shock to those unfamiliar with the world of “high” cheeses.

Seeley Stable in Old Town is a great spot to get homesick if you’re a tourist from Kansas, or if your name is Ed and your lips wiggle a lot when you talk.

The area around the railroad tracks at Washington Street and Pacific Highway – very near the American Agar Company – gets to smelling like a skunk’s undies from time to time, and is a rotten spot to have to wait for a bus, or for anything.

The “Biffy” port-a-johns at the top of the stairs at Leucadia s beach are pretty choice on most Saturday afternoons. As a result, many bathers swear by the ocean.

Spanish Landing, one of the most visually charming spots in San Diego, is a great place to make a killing selling clothespins. The Spanish may have landed there, but once they got a snort of the air, they split in a hurry.

But in terms of unsullied, down-home revulsion, there are few places on earth more hideous or putrid than the “restrooms” at the Tijuana border. There are smells in those pits which are beyond the range of the human nose. Grisly reports of wriggling packs of “killer maggots” are told by border bathroom veterans. Tow-ropes are advised.

Of course, there are probably hundreds of examples of malodorous scents, pungencies, and essences which, though more public nuisance dian pollutant, contribute zilch to the soul, and sour many a potential romance. Such nasal treats are to be found in all parts of the county. They may be marsh areas, septic ranks, open sewers, tidepools, sanitary fills, manure spreads, deceased wildlife, egg salad on Wonder bread, public flatulence, or morning mouth. Hardly tasteful topics, but we all know and probably contribute to at least some of them.

But there is cause for hope. For one thing, we do not live in Steubenville, Ohio. The new cars and the encouraging muscle in emission standards reflect the growing concern over the quality of our air. Cigarette puffers are being told where to pack those smokes. Lifestyles are changing. Folks are a lot freer with their Trident than they used to be. And over at the Air Pollution Control District, the feeling is somewhat less frivolous, but “cautiously optimistic.” We can do it if we don’t choke up.

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