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Kern River Valley gets its own air-quality monitoring device

This monitoring device is looking at the air quality in the Kern River Valley for the first time, Monday, March 13, 2018. (KBAK/KBFX Photo)

For the first time, the Kern River Valley has a device that can measure dangerous pollution in real time.

The Sequoia ForestKeeper group in the Kern Valley bought the device for $275 from a company called Purple Air. The company recently made the air-quality devices, which tracks particulate matter at 2.5 microns (PM 2.5).

The closest air-quality monitor that measures that type of pollution is located in Bakersfield. The group said it needs one of its own monitors to track pollution at a local level.

"We've had bad air creep up from the Kern Valley trench into this area, and we have seen inversion layers in this bowl that we live in," said Ara Marderosian, executive director with the Sequoia ForestKeeper.

For years, the Sequoia ForestKeeper group has been trying to get the Eastern Kern Air Pollution Control District to purchase an air-quality device for the Kern Valley. Instead of waiting for air-pollution officials to make a change, the group decided to take matters into its own hands and make the purchase.

"It's giving us information we didn't have," said Marderosian.

The device hooks outside and detects high levels of pollution using lasers. That information is transmitted to purpleair.com every 20 seconds.

They've only had the device for a few days but already notice a spike in pollution at night.

The group attributes the high levels of night pollution to wood-burning devices.

In the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District, there are regulations on burning, but the Eastern Kern County Pollution Control District has no burning restrictions.

The group hopes with this new device, it will spark a change in regulations among air quality officials.

"Fireplaces and campfires should be something that is limited in their use, and we know that the Air Pollution Control District has funding available for replacing fireplaces, and that's where they should start," said Marderosian.

You can access the Kern River Valley Air Quality data on the Purple Air website.

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