General Air Pollution Complaints
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District typically receives about 2,000 general air pollution complaints each year.
General air pollution complaints include those involving:
- Odors, dust, smoke or other clemical air pollutants from refineries, factories, industrial plants or neighborhood businesses.
- Gas station nozzles.
- Idling port trucks, commercial trucks, locomotives, or buses.
- Excessive smoke from agricultural fires or other controlled burns.
To file a complaint about any of these kinds of pollution, call the 24-hour toll-free complaint hotline at 1-800-334-ODOR (6367).
For complaints about idling or smoking railroad locomotives, call 1-800-334-ODOR (6367) or file a complaint online with the California Air Resources Board. For complaints about smoking vehicles, see the Smoking Vehicle web page.
Tips on Making a Complaint
Air pollution complaints should be made as soon as possible after detecting an odor or observing smoke or fallout. The sooner we receive a complaint, the sooner we can begin an investigation.
Be prepared to describe the odor in as much detail as possible. Does it remind you of a familiar smell such as rotten eggs, rotten cabbage, sweet or sour chemicals, burning plastic, garlic, chlorine or asphalt? Is it oily, musty, metallic, pungent, light or heavy?
Let us know whether the odor is intermittent, recurring, or constant over longer periods of time. How long have you been experiencing the problem? What impact have the emissions had on you?
Please phone in complaints each day that you observe the pollution, not just the first time you notice it. This helps us track the extent of the problem.
How Complaints Are Investigated
Every complaint is investigated individually by a field inspector. During regular business hours, complaints are typically assigned to an investigator within 30 minutes.
Inspectors proceed directly to the area of the suspected source to determine the cause of the odor or emission, and are often able to identify the source very quickly. Inspectors contact complainants in person (unless the complainant has asked not to be contacted), and whenever possible they confirm odor complaints in the presence of the complainant.
Names and addresses of complainants are confidential. They are divulged only to Air District staff, except where required in matters pending before a court. It is also possible to file a complaint anonymously.
Inspectors prepare a written report for each complaint investigation, and you may request a copy of the report if you wish.
Violations of Air Quality Regulations
The California Health and Safety Code and Air District regulations prohibit emissions of air contaminants that present a nuisance or annoyance to a considerable number of people, or that threaten public health or property.
The Air District may issue a Notice of Violation to facilities or individuals that it determines are violating air quality regulations, and may prosecute these violations through either administrative, civil or criminal processes. If the violator does not achieve compliance promptly, the Air Pollution Control Officer may require the addition or modification of air pollution control equipment and/or changes in operating procedures within a specified time frame to eliminate the excessive or offensive emissions.
Sometimes air quality complaints occur even when a facility is in full compliance with regulations. In such cases, Air District inspectors will intervene early to resolve potential problems before they reach the level of violations.