Is Fresno really California's most polluted city?
Maybe. But it's simplistic to single out Fresno in a pack of cities, towns and rural areas--many of them in the Central Valley and SoCal's Inland Empire--with huge pollution problems.
To go beyond the easy-target headlines, go to the California Environmental Protection Agency's new interactive map tool, called CalEnviroScreen, for a nifty look at environmental degradation in the Golden State via census tract. You can find it here.
As the maps show, California's pollution problems fall disproportionately on tracts more likely to be inhabited by people who are poor and least equipped to push back against powerful industrial and agriculatural interests.
As for Fresno, it has the distinction of having the 3,000-person census tract that's No. 1 on the state's toxic hit list, known as "the 93706 zone" for its zip code. That's in West Fresno, traditonally home to the city's African-American community and now heavily Latino. From the LA Times:
It's a place where agriculture meets industry, crisscrossed by freeways. The city placed its dumps and meat-rendering plants there decades ago . . . It's home to a Latino community — the children and grandchildren of migrant workers; to Hmong and Cambodian farmers; and to a minority African American community that includes those desperate to leave, and an old guard of those who say they will never abandon home.
Image: Screen grab from Fresno's ABC affiliate, Channel 30 of smog enveloping downtown