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Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation Donates $100K Toward Salton Sea Monitoring


Last updated 10/26/2017 at 2:06pm

The Desert Sun has provided an update on funds being given toward monitoring pollution at the Salton Sea.

A nonprofit group’s efforts to monitor windblown dust around the Salton Sea is getting a boost from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which is providing a $100,000 grant to support the group’s expanding network of air pollution monitors.

The nonprofit Comité Cívico Del Valle has already set up about 40 air monitoring devices between the U.S.-Mexico border and the Salton Sea, aiming to fill in gaps in data collected by government agencies while bringing communities real-time reports assessing air quality at a neighborhood level.

Dusty air is a worsening problem along the shores of the Salton Sea, which is about to start shrinking rapidly next year, exposing vast stretches of lakebed and more lung-harming dust. Imperial County already has the highest rate of asthma-related emergency room visits for children in California, and the problem is expected to get worse as tens of thousands of acres of lakebed are left high and dry around the lake over the next decade.

Homes in West Shores, Calif., look out over the exposedBuy Photo

“The fact that we’re getting funding from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation sheds a positive light on what we are doing here,” said Luis Olmedo, who leads Comité Cívico Del Valle. “Hopefully it’ll bring attention to the issues that are happening at the Salton Sea.”

The network of air monitors was launched last year by the Brawley-based nonprofit and the Public Health Institute’s California Environmental Health Tracking Program, which received a grant of nearly $2 million from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

The new funding from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation will help keep the network operating and will pay for 20 more monitors in the Imperial Valley, Olmedo said. Some of the monitors will be used to replace existing devices, he said, while others will be set up in new locations.

The monitors measure the levels of particulate matter in the air – the hazardous inhalable particles known as PM10 and PM2.5 – and transmit data that people can access through a website and email alerts. The information is available on the website IVAN Air Monitoring, which stands for Identifying Violations Affecting Neighborhoods and also uses crowdsourcing to gather environmental complaints.

The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation this week announced $20 million in environmental grants to more than 100 organizations.

Comité Cívico was one of the recipients of $1.4 million in grants through the foundation’s California program, which also is supporting projects focusing on scaling up farming methods that capture carbon, designing green spaces in low-income Los Angeles neighborhoods, rehabilitating marine mammal facilities and “transforming the L.A. region into a model of water security and climate-resiliency.”

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