Location: Shafter, CA
Affiliation: Association of Irritated Residents
"It was interesting, around 15 years ago, to suddenly see a 3,000 cow dairy arise in fields near the small country school I had attended as a boy … About two years later the nitrate levels in the school water well began to skyrocket. And then, more dairies, even bigger, were being built and it was not so interesting any more."
— Tom Frantz
I have lived in rural Kern County for over 60 years. I am an almond farmer and a school teacher. My mother and father were both raised nearby just a few miles apart from each other. Life has changed since my grandfathers were cultivating their land with mules. It was interesting, around 15 years ago, to suddenly see a 3,000 cow dairy arise in fields near the small country school I had attended as a boy.
That was the beginning.
This dairy soon caused the teachers to put up fly strips to keep their students on task. About two years later the nitrate levels in the school water well began to skyrocket. And then, more dairies, even bigger, were being built and it was not so interesting any more. Several school boards, city councils and voters requested buffer zones from these intruders. The Association of Irritated Residents was formed to sue the county for not doing an adequate environmental analysis of all these new dairies.
Research showed these dairies were more than just dust, flies, and odor nuisances. They also contribute hugely to our regional air quality problem—which is the worst in the nation. Gaseous dairy emissions clearly increase ozone and particulate matter formation. Small particulate matter (PM2.5) is a serious problem in our area. The tiny particles lodge deeply into people's lungs and cause serious health problems. We successfully sued the EPA to force regulation of this industry.
In addition to the dairies, oil fields, heavy industry, trucking and agriculture create a lot of dirty air in the region. The problem is so severe that nearly 1 in 4 children in California's Central Valley has asthma.
The EPA must do all they can to protect our community from these ongoing pollution problems. We have a right to breathe.
What is PM2.5? The microscopic size of soot, also known as fine particulate matter or PM2.5, allows it to lodge deep within the lung. Diesel vehicles and equipment and coal-fired power plants are among the biggest sources of this pollution. Particle pollution does not just make people die a few days earlier than they might otherwise—these are deaths that would not have occurred if the air were cleaner.