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Compliance & Enforcement

Air Quality Complaints

The District is the agency responsible for ensuring healthful air quality in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz Counties. You can help us achieve our clean air goals by reporting excessive dust, odors, smoke, or other air contaminants.

This web page describes how the District evaluates, responds to, and resolves air quality complaints.

What is an air quality complaint?

An air quality complaint is a formal complaint about a nuisance or annoyance concerning emissions of air contaminants including smoke, dust, or odors.

How do I report an air quality complaint?

When an air quality problem is observed at a stationary source (like a factory or business) or any other type of complaint; call (831) 647-9411, or fax or mail the Complaint Form (word/pdf) to the District.  You will need to complete the Complaint Form (word/pdfor provide the following information verbally to the District:

–  Your name, address and telephone number.
–  The time and date the air quality incident occurred and whether it is still continuing.
The nature of the air quality complaint (smoke, dust, odor, or other).
The name and address of the alleged source and the type of operation causing it, if known.

Complaint information is forwarded to a District inspector; as soon as possible; for investigation and resolution.  However, complaints received after normal business hours or during the non-work day may be dispatched to an inspector the next business day.

Do I have to identify myself when I call the District to report an air quality complaint?

The District always encourages people reporting stationary source air quality problems to provide their name, address, and telephone number. This information helps District inspectors verify complaint information, including any prior history of air quality problems involving the alleged source, and allows them to inform complainants of the status of complaint investigation activities.  District policy strictly prohibits the release of any information that would identify a complainant to an alleged source or to any other non-District personnel without their consent. Information about your complaint will be kept confidential, except where required in litigated matters.

How are air quality complaints handled?

Whenever possible, an inspector will contact a complainant by telephone to determine the cause of the complaint and the nature and source of the alleged air quality problem. At this time, the inspector obtains or verifies the following information:

–  The name and location of the alleged source (if known)
–  The frequency of annoyance or occurrence of the smoke, dust, or odor that is causing the complaint
The time of day the air quality problem was first noticed
The duration of the air quality problem at each occurrence
The names and addresses of other persons affected, if available
The location and extent of property damage
A description and frequency of any illness alleged to have resulted from the air contaminants
A description of odors, if any
Wind direction if known
Any other information the plaintiff may have, relevant to the air quality, or a problem, from a specific source, operation, or piece of equipment.

While some complaints can be resolved over the telephone and require no further follow-up, others need more investigation. If a complaint cannot be immediately resolved by phone, the inspector attempts to locate and verify the alleged source by surveying and canvassing the suspected area. On verifying the source, the inspector conducts an inspection to verify the complaint and determine the cause of the air quality problem.

The inspector documents the findings of the inspection and issues Notices to Comply/Notices of Violation for any observed violations of air quality requirements.  The inspector also informs the source of the suspected cause of the complaint and what steps could be taken to address the problem.

Often, by the time the inspector arrives on the scene, the odor has gone away, or the dust or smoke has disappeared. But even if the inspector cannot confirm your complaint, he or she will fill out a complete report. The District keeps a permanent record of all complaints investigated in District.

Complaints are classified as private and public. If the District deems a complaint a “private” nuisance, it means only a few people are affected. A neighbor-to-neighbor dispute is an example of this. In such cases, the affected party may need legal help to resolve the problem.

Prohibition against causing a public nuisance

California Health and Safety Code [http://www.arb.ca.gov/bluebook/bluebook.htm] Section 41700 states that no person can discharge air contaminants that cause injury, nuisance or annoyance to any considerable number of persons or the public, or discharge air contaminants that endanger the comfort, health or safety of such persons. If a business violates this prohibition or any other air quality requirement, the District may issue a Notice of Violation to the business. If a Notice of Violation is issued, the business must take action to correct the violation and pay a monetary penalty to the District.

Additional air quality complaint references

If you would like to contact the California Air Resources Board about a complaint, please call (800) 952-5588 or go to http://www.arb.ca.gov/enf/complaints/complaints.htm for more information.

If you would like to contact the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about a complaint please call (415) 947-4142 or go to https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/report-environmental-violations 

If you would like to request any public records information about a business in the District, which holds a permit to operate, issued by the ‘Air Pollution Control District’ – click here to find further information, or simply call 831 (647-9411).