When Deja Hassen was on her way back from Colorado to her home in Merced, she noticed the atmosphere changing as she approached the San Joaquin Valley.
“I could see the air getting thicker,” the 29-year-old Hassen said.
According to the annual 2016 State of the Air study, the top four regions with the worst short-term particle pollution in the nation are all in the Valley: Bakersfield, Fresno-Madera, Visalia-Porterville-Hanford, and Modesto-Merced.
Hassen said once she hit Fresno, the air started looking worse.
On Saturday morning, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and Valley Clean Air Now, or Valley CAN, worked together to have a Tune In and Tune Up event. Workers from Valley CAN gave each car that came through a free vehicle emissions test.
Jose Marin, outreach specialist for Valley CAN, said emission test events are important to the Valley because of the high pollution rates in the air that affect community health, especially for people with respiratory problems.
“This program wants to work with the state of California so residents can abide by standards they make for California drivers,” Marin said. “Some people can’t afford to get the test or the repairs.”
If the amount of emissions from a car were over the California standard, the driver received a $500 voucher for repair work at a local smog repair shop, said Jedidiah Morris, emissions tester for Valley CAN.
Having local shops do repairs also contributes to the local economy, Marin said, and keeps money flowing into community businesses.
Every car in California is required to have a smog check every two years, Morris said.
“If the car is running effectively and efficiently, then there shouldn’t be high emissions coming out of the tail pipe,” Morris said. “Our goal is to clean smog in the Valley. There are many vehicles running that are polluting the air.”
Morris said Valley CAN estimated 300 metric tons of smog were cleaned in a year throughout the Valley because of Tune In and Tune Up events that happen monthly around the eight counties the Valley air district serves.
“It’s very important because it affects our Valley and air quality,” Morris said. “It’s important for the vehicle because it creates the best efficiency for the vehicle.”
Hassen came to the Tune In and Tune Up event for the first time on Saturday and in search of an explanation about why her car’s “check engine” light was on. Although it turned out her emissions weren’t an issue, she said, Valley CAN workers were able to point her in the right direction.
“Now I can go get this problem fixed,” Hassen said.
Next month’s Tune In and Tune Up will be at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds Oct. 22 from 8 a.m. to noon. Organizers will be able to test up to 525 vehicles.