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Lawmakers Seek Funding For Better Pollution Monitoring

The Utah Division of Air Quality runs its pollution monitoring program out of a warehouse in West Valley City. Bo Call oversees it, and he looks on as a technician troubleshoots a busted pollution sampler – one of about a dozen.

“They’re here because they’re broken,” he says. “They might be used for parts. I mean, the majority in our network are past their five-year life, so we’re looking to find replacements.”

Replacing the broken monitors here would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Years of budget cuts means there are no backups when equipment fails, like the monitor that left Ogden without two months of real-time data this fall. But Call says high-quality data is critical.

“Air quality is very expensive, and it’s based on a lot of data,” he says. “And the more accurate the data is, the better you can resolve your solutions.

Utah’s air-quality monitoring is due for updates, and leaders of the Utah Legislature’s bipartisan Clean Air Caucus are taking that message Tuesday to budget-makers. Last year they okayed the Department of Environmental Quality’s request for $6 million to replace the warehouse with a new technical services building that will serve Air Quality and other environmental agencies. DAQ also received half of what it requested last year for monitoring equipment, and it’s hoping for more this year.

“The public cares about this; we care about this,” says Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, who’s spearheading the effort. “It affects our health. It affects our economic development. It’s an important issue. It affects all of us.”

The founder of the bipartisan Clean Air Caucus, Arent says public and business concern is driving the case for clean-air legislation and funding.

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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