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Fresno: The dirtiest city in the land, says Forbes

Forbes put out its “America’s Dirtiest Cities” list this morning, giving Fresno its “booby prize” for being the dirtiest and, in the process, not really telling us anything about our city that we didn’t already know.

Yes, Fresno has poor air quality. Yes, the water here isn’t the greatest — though Forbes uses a 10-year-old example when plenty has been written about the subject since then. From Forbes’ explainer:

The environmental degradation of the Central Valley has many contributing factors. First of all, its geography doesn’t do it any favors. It’s a big, long bowl surrounded on three sides by mountains that trap pollutants from cars and factories and oil fields in an inversion layer. Second, it’s a victim of what brought people there in the first place — rich fertile soils from which grow much of America’s fruits and vegetables. For decades farmers would burn leftover cuttings from their fields after the harvest — dumping massive amounts of lung-choking particulate matter into the air. Burning has been banned since 2004, and the air has gotten cleaner since then, but there’s still a long way to go.

This thrusting of Fresno into the national eye comes just a week after Fresno made national headlines for something good and earth-friendly. Our recycling prowess — No. 1 in the nation, y’all! — was profiled by National Geographic.

On the Forbes list, Fresno is right alongside its peers from the Central Valley and California. Bakersfield ranked No. 2, Modesto is No. 5, Riverside finished No. 6 with San Jose and Stockton eighth and ninth, respectively.

If you’re interested in following these issues beyond just when a national publication aggregates a rank-the-city list to bait you into clicking through a slideshow, you should certainly be reading Mark Grossi’s Earth Log on the Bee’s News Blog. And for all of you who wear every poor Fresno ranking as a badge of honor or use these lists as fodder to bash Fresno from your anonymous Twitter account, have fun.

[photo: Mark Crosse / The Fresno Bee]

Responses to "Fresno: The dirtiest city in the land, says Forbes"

EJ Watts says:

I read the article, and it was an interesting opinion piece. Now here are some facts: In 2011, ( published an article of the top 10 worst cities for water quality in the U.S. Number 6? Houston, the home-sweet-home of Christopher Helman (the author of the “dirtiest cities” article). Fresno was nowhere on the list. In 2010, Houston Public Radio reported that Houston’s water ranked 95th out of 100 in quality ( NASA reported that “Houston has a serious air quality problem.” ( That’s right, NASA. The New York Times reported that “[Houston] is the worst recycler among the United States’ 30 largest cities.” ( Fresno is the #1 recycler in the Nation. Now, I’m not trying to pick on Houston, I’m sure that it’s a great city with it’s fair share of pros and cons, and I know that Fresno has plenty of room to improve, I’m just pointing out that Mr. Helman seems to have an agenda of badmouthing California cities like Fresno, while ignoring the facts, and the problems in his own backyard.

Bruce says:

I read the article and see Fresno as number 3…

cherokee heart says:

what do they expect the 99 runs right through here, thats why we high five the high speed rail!

dustin says:

How Fresno got picked before Bakersfield is beyond me…. If you have ever drivin through Bakersfield then you know what I mean. As for water and air I dont know but as for garbage its discussting its everywhere. And you can tell that its been there for quite a long time with plastic jugs decaying from long exposier from the sun to homeless camps set up right along side the freeway onramps. As for looks go Bakersfield is by far the ugliest trash filled city I have ever seen.

Allan Krauter says:

Dustin, there is this air current called the Fresno Eddy that traps the air in your part of the valley and keeps it circulating locally and picking up more pollution. Ask the air district about it.

Allan Krauter says:

You are correct regarding our garbage problem. People can be real swine when it comes to living in one’s own filth.

Dave says:

As far as ag burning; it is still happening. I can tell because it aggravates my asthma and I can smell it. Sometimes they even through in non plant material that smells like plastic or similar smell burning. I get about a day to a few days in between the height of the harvest and the burn cycle where the air is somewhat clean and my asthma doesn’t kick in.

As far as the freeway trash, that comes from garbage trucks. when they get on the free way the lighter material like paper, plastic bags, etc. get whipped out of the back of them. You’ll notice the pattern from where they get on and off the freeway. On the parts of the freeway where they don’t go, there’s little if any trash.

Fresnobites says:

While I can’t say I agree with the report, it’s hard to argue how dirty our city has become. In a way people in the valley are like pigs, who live in their mire and don’t realize how dirty it is. We are so used to breathing our filthy air, which is filled with everything from auto and dairy cow pollution, that we don’t realize how dirty it is until it rains for a few days. I can remember in the early 90′s when we moved to Clovis how the mountains were visible everyday from our house. Now? Not so much.

Richard says:

Although it is suspect that the reports used to formulate this article are from years past, let us not forget the main issue. These reports are valid in the since that it has only been 2 years. How much impovement has there been in just two short years. I know I refuse to drink the water in town, and the blanket of garbage still resides in the area most of the year. The major farm and industry in the area, still do business as usual. The city council, agencies and public need to get together and get this hole cleaned up. Downtown is still a disaster. The increase of drug infeasted communities are on the rise, drinking and driving still remains and issue(inspite of FPD). There are significant lack of small business growth. Which mostly is attributed to the overal lack of quality community retail/social enviroments. Even Riverpark has a on going problem with crime, and unsavory activities. Progress will never come to Fresno until we change the mindset, and move forward inproving infustructure, roads, and communities. Even the area around Fresno State is in much needed attention. So, Fresno embrace all your #1 rankings, #1 in DUI’s, new cases of HIV infections, and now dirtiest city in the nation…Wow, to bad these rankings come at the cost of all the citizens. Wake up Fresno, you choose either by abstention or indifference.

Pk says:

I hope EJ mails his comments to Forbes- I see his editor should be having a sit- down and discussing balance and current stats that would give a more accurate story or hire a better reporter!!

Wesley Rolley says:

In 2006, two economics professors from CSU Fullerton did a study that pegged the cost to the San Joaquin Valley of Poor Air Quality at $3 Billion / Year. What have local politicians done since? When the San Joaquin Valley Congress critters rail at the EPA, are they thinking about the effects of bad air quality on the cost of health care? or ADA payments to schools when student miss days with asthma? or how much the taxes on that $3 Billion could due to lower the cost of government?

Seems that you can’t tell who is a conservative anymore.

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