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Utah Hasn't Seen Much Ozone Pollution this Year

Paul Sableman
Flickr Creative Commons


Ozone pollution in Utah barely reached unhealthy levels this year. The summer smog season ended Oct. 1, and the Utah Division of Air Quality reports none of its 15 sampling sites statewide exceeded the federal cap.

Kevin Seely sometimes gets lunch with his coworkers at downtown Salt Lake City taco cart that’s just a few blocks from where state air regulators monitor ozone pollution. He’s not surprised to learn regulators recorded so few smoggy days this summer, because that’s what Seely saw with his at-home pollution indicator: his four-year-old.

“We have a son who has asthma,” Seely says, “and definitely in the winter months when the air quality is on alert, we notice his asthma kick up a lot more. And this summer there were no issues with his asthma.”

None of the state’s smog monitoring stations has violated federal standards this year. Monitors that check ozone pollution every day showed that pollution edged into the unhealthy range just seven times over the course of the year from Brigham City to Vernal and Spanish Fork.

“When we think back on this summer, one of the things we’ve had is a lot of water,” says Bo Call, who oversees air monitoring for Utah Division of Air Quality. “There were a lot more storms coming through, clean things out, so it helps to keep the pollution levels in check. And that’s one of the reasons we had such a great year this year.”

The federal Environmental Protection Agency uses a complex formula to decide whether an area has a smog problem bad enough to warrant a local cleanup plan. The EPA could require one for downtown Salt Lake City based on three years of data, but Call says that’s unlikely right now.

EPA offficials are under court order rethink the current smog standard of 75 parts per billion by December. The EPA’s science advisors are required to base any new smog standards on ozone’s impacts to human health.

Tougher limits will probably mean air-quality scientists have to develop ozone-control plans for other parts of the state or even the entire state.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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