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Posted: Sunday, March 27, 2005 10:00 pm

County approves study on air quality

The San Joaquin Council of Governments has approved a contract with a private consultant to study air quality in San Joaquin County.

The one-year deal, approved on Thursday, calls for SJCOG to pay $24,000 plus expenses to Sierra Nevada Air Quality Group LLC. The Pinole-based consultancy will not gather any new data.

Instead, it will draw specific conclusions from existing studies. These sources include studies from the federal government, local air quality districts and academic studies.

"The valley air district aggregates a whole lot of information about air quality, but the perspective is valley-wide," said William Sylte, project manager with Sierra Nevada. "SJCOG wanted more specific information about San Joaquin County."

The firm will have a three-member consulting team evaluating data and making recommendations. This will include Sylte, a former employee of both the California Air Resources Board and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The air quality in the San Joaquin Valley is some of the worst in the state, according to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. On average, the valley exceeds state ozone and particle pollution standards about 100 days each year.

Air quality problems in San Joaquin County don't tend to be as bad as in counties to the south, said Anthony Presto, the North District media contact with the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

However, he said, local activities affect the air quality to the south because prevailing winds tend to take pollution to the south, where is gathers against the mountains in Kern County.

Crows go to war against business owner

Glenn Sherman's landscaping business on Kasson Road has gone to the birds since a pair of nesting crows has declared war on his truck fleet.

"Nobody warned us about Alfred Hitchcock's birds," Sherman joked, watching the pair of crows flying around the adjacent Chevron gas terminal. "We've invaded their space."

The crows have spent the last couple of months destroying the windshield wiper blades on each of his work trucks and pelting the glass doors of his business office with rocks.

Efforts to outwit the birds by covering the blades with plastic bags have proved fruitless.

Before drivers leave for the evening, they are reminded to cover their wiper blades with plastic bags each night. In the morning, workers usually find the bags shredded and the blades pulled apart.

"I've replaced the blades about seven to eight times," Sherman said, "and at $8 per blade. They were here before us, and evidently they've let their presence be known."

The birds swoop down on Sherman's landscaping yard during the early morning hours from a nest they built on the platform of a large tank a few hundred yards away.

Watching the crows come and go from the nest, it's obvious the birds are quite large.

"They stand a few feet tall," trucker Sam Alvarado said. "They're huge."

"I've seen them on the trucks," Assistant Manager Josh Hoyle said. "No ordinary crow."

According to experts, the mannerisms of crows are odd at best, and often taught to their offspring.

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