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Ozone Season Digs In

Judy Fahys
Salt Lake City's skyline can be marred with ozone pollution during hot, sunny afternoons.

Forecasters say warm, sunny weather is here to stay for awhile. That means the summer ozone season has arrived. And so have conditions for smoggy afternoons.

With northern Utah’s ozone season is settling in, state air-quality officials are counting on the public to help keep the smog down. The trends are playing out on the Utah Division of Air Quality’s web page and the UtahAir app.

“With all the rain and the moisture we’ve gotten, that has kept the ozone levels more or less in check,” says Bo Call, who oversees the state’s air-quality monitoring system. “But that weather pattern has shifted, and we’re headed into this 90-degree-plus weather pattern.”

Federal environmental regulations are based on health, and last fall ozone standards got slightly tougher. They went from 75 parts per billion to 70 ppb. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks will be avoided with the new regulation, and health benefits will total $3 billion dollars or more nationwide.

Utah hasn’t violated this annual allowance for ozone pollution in the past, but it’s always been close. Call says what people do during the sunny, hot afternoons can push ozone over the standard.

“It pretty much forms every day and goes away every night,” he says. “So we can choose those activities to take place in the mornings and the evenings when ozone levels are down.”

That means simple things like filling gas tanks and running gas-powered equipment like lawnmowers in the morning or evening. Other ideas can be found on the Travelwise Utah web page.

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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