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Environmental Health

The Butte Environmental Council has long recognized that without a healthy environment, the health of all its inhabitants will suffer.

BEC has worked hard over the years to protect the environment in Butte County and beyond; not just for the benefit of the region's human residents, but for all residents, and for the integrity of the region as a whole.

Policy Statement on Enviro Health (currently under development)

Threats to the environment include not only improper land and water use, but also toxic chemical, electronic, agricultural, and other wastes. BEC has been a leader in advocating for the reduction/elimination/proper disposal of all of these wastes, starting with the recycling program in 1975, and most recently with the two California Wellness Foundation grants (2006-2012) that enabled development and promotion of the Alternatives to Toxics material and resources.

BEC got involved with testing for dioxins around Butte County through a grant from the California Wellness Foundation in 2010 has led us from the Koppers plant to the co-generation biomass incinerator in south Oroville, owned Covanta. The plant is currently closed (winter 2013), but waste ash scattered in orchards and fields throughout Butte and other neighboring counties has tested alarmingly high in dioxins. If Covanta thinks it can "dump and run," we are prepared to show them otherwise.

Air Quality issues

Despite being a relatively rural county, Butte County is in "moderate non-attainment" of air quality standards, exeeding standards for ozone (O3) in the summer, and particulate matter (PM) 2.5 in the winter. Inversion layers can also trap pollution in the valley in the winter:"Topography a role in creating a temperature inversion since it can sometimes cause cold air to flow from mountain peaks down into valleys. This cold air then pushes under the warmer air rising from the valley, creating the inversion." (see here for more on inversion layers). Additionally, topography and wind patterns combine to push pollution from the Bay Area and Sacramento northwards into the valley.

Threats to air quality within the County include agricultural burning, woodstove use (particularly in lower elevations), and, for sensitive or directly downwind populations, aerial pesticide application.

For more information about Butte County air quality: 

Sacramento Valley Basinwide Air Pollution Control Council

Butte County Air Quality Management District


Environmental health is inseparable from environmental justice. 

Why? Because the least affluent and most disenfranchised of our communities are automatically selected as the sites for the most toxic and harmful industries and facilities. In Butte County, you can see evidence of this in the Superfund sites of Oroville, the location of the toxic scrapyards, and in the exposure of farm laborers to toxic chemicals.

Environmental justice also means being aware of the history of indigenous people in our area and beyond, and supporting the rights of indigenous people to be recognized, respected, and supported as they practice their lifeways. A cultural tradition that is bound to place and the health of a specific ecosystem must be able to continue its relationship to that ecosystem; to ruin that ecosystem is to practice the final act of genocide.