Say you’re taking a walk after work and you notice a strange smell in the air. Maybe it’s nothing, or maybe it’s a chemical or a spill of some sort. Should you report it? Although many cities offer reporting apps and services, not all are available in county areas. That’s where environmental reporting comes in, and one network already being used in some San Joaquin Valley areas is now available in Tulare County.
It’s called IVAN, or Identifying Violations Affecting Neighborhoods, and it’s been around in other counties for years. It works like this: You smell pesticide drift, witness illegal dumping, or spot a leaking sewer, then simply fill out a report online. The website also lists local agencies that can accept reports.
“Residents are empowered to report environmental problems affecting their communities and hold regulators accountable,” says Central California Environmental Justice Network director Nayamin Martinez, who helped launch IVAN in Tulare.
After receiving more than 1,000 reports in Fresno, Kern, Kings and other counties, and thanks to a $40,000 grant from the California Environmental Protection Agency, Martinez’s group and its partners soft-launched IVAN Tulare in June but publicly announced the new website on Wednesday. She says the network has helped local agencies enforce regulations and fine violators.
Reyna Castellanos, an advocate and Spanish interpreter in Visalia, has used IVAN in other counties and says she was shocked that it hadn’t yet arrived in Tulare. “One of the great things about IVAN is that you call on an issue and the operators help guide you as to where to submit, who the right agencies are,” she says. “That is very helpful because some of the barriers are sometimes not knowing who to turn to.”
The network is also available on smartphones via the IVAN Community app.