Sunday, August 2, 2020

How to File Air Pollution Complaints

How to Report an Air Pollution Complaint


What can you complain about and who do you complaint to? How do you report air pollution concerns?

First, you can report anything that you think is affecting the air you breathe. This can be anything from odors you’re smelling that might be coming from a facility to dust getting kicked up by trucks or other vehicles, to smoke coming out of a truck exhaust system. Some of the most common types of air pollution complaints include:

-       Dust

-       Odor

-       Illegal Burning

-       Visible Emissions 

-       Smoking Vehicles

-       Idling Vehicles

But what happens when you see an air pollution concern and CARB or the Air District are not around to witness or take action?

When you see a potential problem, it is important to note a couple of important elements to be able to describe what’s happening as best you can.  

     WHAT is your complaint about?

WHERE does it occur?

WHEN does it occur? Is it ongoing?

WHO is the potential source?

WHY should you complain?


Remember, it is okay to complain simply if

something is a nuisance. A nuisance is a person, thing, or circumstance causing inconvenience or annoyance. Is there anything in the area that you consider an annoyance? Such as an odor from a facility or idling trucks? You can report that as well.

Now onto the tricky part – where do you report these concerns? 

CARB traditionally regulates mobile sources of air pollution, and Air Districts regulate stationary sources. A stationary source is something that is bolted to the ground or otherwise does not move, while mobile sources move throughout the state.  Through memorandums of understanding, some air districts assist with mobile source enforcement. 

In response to an increasing number of stationary source complaints reported by communities throughout the state, CARB has been increasing its focus on stationary sources.

This exemplifies that the more vocal you are regarding reporting these concerns the more CARB and Air Districts know about what’s happening in the areas you live and the more enforcement actions that can be taken. You know best about what’s happening in your community. The best way to make regulatory agencies aware of your concern is to report it, and to continuing reporting it every day that it occurs. Complaints from the community are one of the greatest tools enforcement has to identify violations. It is important for you, as the reporting party, to be both patient and persistent. Sometimes these concerns cannot be fixed or identified in a single complaint. The important part is to keep reporting these concerns to make sure CARB and Air Districts know there is still a problem occurring.

If an air pollution complaint requires an immediate response, contact the Air District first. CARB is based in Sacramento and El Monte whereas the Air Districts have inspectors located throughout the State so are able to respond to complaints more quickly. The following is a list of how to file complaints in each of the AB 617 air districts. For other air districts, visit to see what Air District has authority in your area, or reach out to and someone will follow-up with you.

Air District


Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District

Call: 916-874-4800 or 1-800-880-9025


Bay Area Air Quality Management District

Call: 1-800-334-ODOR (6367)


San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District

Call: 1-800-926-5550


South Coast Air Quality Management District

Call: 1-800-CUT-SMOG(288-7664)


San Diego County Air Pollution Control District

Call: 1-858-586-2650


Imperial County Air Pollution Control District

Call: 1-442-265-1800



In addition to filing your complaints with Air Districts, it is also a good idea to submit it on the CalEPA website at If you don’t have access to a computer, you can also call CARB’s hotline at 1-800-END-SMOG (363-7664). The CalEPA Website allows us to report many different types of environmental concerns to one place and have them directed to the proper environmental agency. Your complaint will be sent to the appropriate state or local agencies, depending on your location and the type of environmental problem you select. CalEPA’s boards and departments work with more than 400 local agencies that enforce environmental laws. This website saves you the trouble of having to find out which agency is the appropriate one.

As you can see from the screenshot, you can report Air, Water, Toxic Substance, Pesticide and Solid Waste complaints here by checking the appropriate box. You can also change the page language to Spanish by clicking on the box that says English at the top.

While not mandatory, it is helpful to provide your contact information if you’re comfortable doing so because it allows an inspector to contact you to obtain additional information and follow-up on your complaint. CARB and Air Districts will never share your information with the responsible party. Your complaint will get a reference number when using CalEPA’s system to help you identify your complaint for follow-up.

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