Incident Air Monitoring
Following its inception, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has expanded the scope of the program to include:
Provide emergency air monitoring support to help protect the public from acute exposure hazards of major unplanned air contaminant releases and other emergencies with air quality impacts.
Maintain and improve emergency preparedness through training sessions and exercises.
Represent CARB in developing Board-mandated and interagency response plans.
Collaborate with other emergency response entities and local air districts for optimum technical and operational effectiveness during emergency events.
The programs original mission was to deploy air-monitoring instruments during emergency events; however, as the program progressed, there were several occasions where staff was requested to deploy equipment to monitor for non-emergency incidents. As a result, the program was redesigned to incorporate all types of air monitoring. Additionally, with the recent passage of AB 617 and CARB's efforts to establish more comprehensive community air monitoring capabilities, CARB is orienting its program to include air monitoring for other non-routine air emissions and incidents.
A Brief History of Emergency Response in CARB
On July 14th, 1991, several Southern Pacific rail cars derailed on the Cantara Loop near Dunsmuir. One of the rail cars ruptured and released about 19,500 gallons of the herbicide metam sodium into the Sacramento River. Forty five miles of the river and portions of Lake Shasta were sterilized, more than 200,000 fish were killed, and surrounding communities were treated for eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. As a result, Senate Bill 48 (Thompson) was adopted into law creating the Railroad Accident Prevention and Immediate Deployment (RAPID) Force which was given the authority to organize and coordinate the state response to large-scale hazardous materials transportation incidents.
The subsequent air assessment response to the Dunsmuir spill demonstrated the inherent deficiencies in measuring, modeling, and characterizing the effects of exotic air pollutants at lower ppm levels. With the limitations of air monitoring and modeling techniques, thousands of pounds of hazardous materials had been emitted into the atmosphere. Established sampling and analytical methods were insufficient to handle an incident of that magnitude.
Experts with a vast array of emergency air monitoring expertise were brought together from various CARB programs. The specialists would be available upon request by local air districts during emergency situations to expend CARB’s resources. Smaller state and local agencies do not always possess the available resources to deal with large emergency events and CARB is prepared to handle any air quality emergency. The CARB Staff are continually searching for and training with cutting edge air monitoring equipment, conducting outreach programs to improve interoperability with local and state agencies, and proficiently responding to requests for air monitoring support.
Incident Air Monitoring Report
CARB has released its second annual report. The 2017 Incident Air Monitoring Report outlines incident air monitoring acitivites for 2017 and future objectives.