Air Quality | KUER 90.1

Air Quality

Utah Department of Transportation

State air-quality officials are still trying to bring next-generation clean cars and clean fuel to Utah. They told lawmakers Wednesday they are making headway.

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.

Environews USA

A former worker from Stericycle’s medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake City has accused the company of illegally burning radioactive waste. Nearby residents are asking Governor Gary Herbert once again to shut down the incinerator.

Sarah Sammis / Flickr Creative Commons

Families all over Utah celebrated Pioneer Day with fireworks. The festivities also pumped lots of unhealthy smoke into the air that spiked air pollution. KUER’s Judy Fahys reports on the trend and Salt Lake City’s plan to deal with it.

Polluted air has become a kind of day-after tradition for Independence Day and Pioneer Day in Utah. Monitors at the state Department of Environmental Quality show those pretty pyrotechnics created enough smoke to top federal health standards in Salt Lake, Utah, Weber, Cache and Tooele counties Thursday night.

Dan Bammes

  A member of the Utah legislature is trying again to change the law that keeps the state of Utah from imposing stricter environmental rules than the federal government. 

Republican Representative Becky Edwards of North Salt Lake had a similar bill in the last general session.  It passed the House, but it was defeated in the state Senate, in part because of opposition from industry.

Dan Bammes

  Utah’s current law prohibits state regulators from imposing any air quality regulations stricter than federal requirements. A bill that would change that will be up for discussion in a legislative committee this week.

On Wednesday, the legislature’s  Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment committee will gather for an interim meeting. Lawmakers will look at a proposal that would allow the state of Utah to impose stricter air quality standards than the federal government.

Mike Renlund / Flickr Creative Commons

    

Fireworks are already exploding in neighborhoods throughout Utah. KUER’s Judy Fahys reports report on the potentially unhealthy side affects of this pastime.

Many enjoy the colorful spectacle of a fireworks display. But the pollution caused by fireworks makes others sick.

Just like the stuff that causes Utah’s winter smog, the smoke from fireworks is particle pollution.

“Any kind of pollution makes me cough,” says Richard Keene, a Salt Lake City resident whose lung problems are aggravated by fireworks smoke.

woodleywonderworks / Flickr Creative Commons

    

Forecasters are predicting nice weather for the holiday weekend. But clear, quiet skies also mean higher ozone pollution that can cause health problems.

Ozone is Utah’s “other” pollution. It’s odorless and colorless. But this summertime pollutant still poses a hazard to health. Bo Call supervises pollution monitoring for the Utah Division of Air Quality.

Steven Vance / Flickr Creative Commons

    

The sixth annual Clear the Air Challenge begins on Tuesday.  The idea is to help people learn what they can do to help protect the air from pollution. 

July is a big month for Jonathan Johnson. He’s chairman of the board of Overstock.com and he leads the Salt Lake Chamber’s clean-air committee. The pressure’s on because his company edged out perennial rivals Fidelity Investments and ADP to clinch last year’s Clear the Air Challenge in the corporation category.

Mark Schoneveld / Flickr Creative Commons

Utah’s air-quality scientists continue to piece together the puzzle of the state’s pollution problem. Recently, they’ve been studying a new piece of it, the toxic components that might be tied to cancer and other severe health conditions

The state Division of Air Quality began to look at toxic chemicals in the Salt Lake Valley’s air pollution after an outcry from clean air advocates last winter.

Flickr Creative Commons

The Environmental Protection Agency released an ambitious plan Monday to reduce the pollution blamed for global warming. Several Utahns are already working on next steps.

David Folland, a leader of the grass roots Citizens Climate Lobby in Utah, is pleased to see progress finally being made on the issue.

Erik Crosman / University of Utah

Burning wood in fireplaces and stoves has been forbidden for years whenever air quality gets bad in parts of northern Utah.

Now the Division of Air Quality is considering similar regulations for businesses.

The idea first came up when regulators were brainstorming in a public workshop last winter: Why not make commercial and industrial facilities comply with the same no-burn standards that homeowners do?

Rama via Wikimedia Commons

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection agency joined Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker at the downtown Library today to challenge local businesses and institutions to save money and reduce pollution by consuming less energy. 

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Tooele County citizens met Wednesday night to talk about the possibility of letting Stericycle build a new medical waste incinerator in the area. After a series of informational meetings organized by Stericycle, this town hall was organized by residents.

The meeting at Stansbury High School was organized by Katrina Hill of Stansbury Park, who says she’s never done anything like this before.

Andrea Smardon

A midwife in Vernal has brought attention to what she believes is an unusually high rate of infant mortality in Uintah County. She and some environmental activists believe the newborn deaths may be connected to pollution from oil and gas drilling in the area. State and local health officials are holding a public meeting Wednesday evening to discuss a possible study of the issue.

Creative Commons photo by Tim Brown, Infinite World

The American Lung Association released its annual report this week on the State of the Air across the country. The results for Utah are mixed.

Utah Department of Transportation

Utah’s smog season is underway. Some call it Utah’s overlooked pollution problem.

Michelle Hofmann, a pediatrician and founder of the health advocacy group Breathe Utah, is used to hearing people complain about sooty pollution in the winter. But she says it’s harder for patients to grasp the impacts of ground-level ozone pollution, since it’s odorless and colorless.

Courtesy Photo / University of Southern California

   

Researchers, regulators and clean-air advocates gathered Monday to talk about Utah’s air pollution woes.

Jonathan Samet, chairman of Preventative Medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, focused his keynote speech on what else decision-makers need to know to build on America’s progress in tackling pollution.

“Research is important,” Samet said after his talk, “and we need it to guide the policymakers, so we can focus in on those sources that may be most critical.”

Ryan Houston / Flickr Creative Commons

A new study from the University of Utah suggests yet another link between pollution and health hazards: a correlation between dirty air and suicide that’s spurring even more questions.

Amanda Bakian, an assistant professor of psychiatry, says preliminary findings show more people commit suicide when nitrogen dioxide is elevated. And when is fine-particle pollution is elevated. But she notes the correlation is puzzling because the suicide-pollution link is strongest in the seasons when pollution is generally not that high, spring and fall.

Utah Department of Transportation

New clean fuel, clean car standards promise to be the single best way to clean up Utah’s air. State leaders say they want to accelerate these so-called Tier 3 rules in Utah. Yet, car buyers are already taking matters into their own hands, at the steering wheel.

Another air-scrubbing storm has just passed through Salt Lake City. But Tom Hemmersmeier is still thinking about clean cars.

Andrea Smardon

Entrepreneurs, activists and policy makers are joining forces Wednesday to solve air quality problems along the Wasatch front. The new Impact Hub Salt Lake is hosting what they call an innovation lab focused on finding air pollution solutions.

Andrea Smardon

Clean air advocates released their grades for Utah lawmakers Tuesday. Compared to past legislative sessions, lawmakers showed improvement, but advocates say there is still a lot of work to be done. 

Judy Fahys

  

  The Salt Lake Valley was choking with winter pollution as the Legislature convened in January. Lawmakers were compelled to step up to the challenge to clear the air.

Thousands of Utahns rallied for air pollution solutions outside the state Capitol the weekend before lawmakers settled in. No one could remember another time that so many people came together to demand a stop to the smog. Sara Baldwin Auck is an advocate for Utah Clean Energy.

inversion over salt lake valley.
KUER News

  A bill to reduce wood-stove soot in Utah’s high-pollution areas is headed to the Senate after receiving House approval Thursday. The bill would help fund programs to help people who rely on woodstoves alone to convert to cleaner home-heating alternatives.

When fine particle air pollution along the Wasatch Front reaches the high end of what the Utah Division of Air Quality deems unhealthy, the Utah Department of Health recommends schools keep students inside for recess. But some wonder if that recommendation should come when pollution levels are even lower. Officials with the Utah Asthma Program say discussions about revising those standards are underway.

Andrea Smardon

Small businesses now have access to funding that will help improve air quality. The UCAIR Air Assist program offers funds to small businesses to buy equipment upgrades that will reduce emissions. The first grant recipient is an auto body shop in Salt Lake City.

ACS Precision Finish is using about $15,000 of state money to upgrade from a solvent to a water-based paint system. Corey Kaggie, a painter in the shop, is dressed in a white protective body suit, goggles, and a face mask. She says the new paint certainly smells better.

DAQ Report: A Few More Inversion Days

Mar 4, 2014
Brian Grimmett

  Utah’s winter inversion season ended on March 1st.  The Division of Air Quality says there were 31 days when the urban areas of Utah exceeded the federal Ambient Air Quality standards, compared to 29 the year before.  But Bryce Bird, the director of the Division of Air Quality, says what’s really changed is public interest in the issue.

Utah House lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow state-specific solutions to air pollution.

Republican Rep. Becky Edwards, R- North Salt Lake, has a bill to loosen a law that prevents state environmental rules from being stricter than federal ones. She says Utah knows how to clean up its air better than the federal government does.

“HB121 allows for local control to address our local needs,” says Edwards. “This is another example of how states are more effective and do things better than the federal one-size-fits all solutions.”

Andrea Smardon

  A Utah Senate committee voted down a bill Friday that would have kept medical incinerators at least five miles away from homes. 

Senate Bill 64 would have increased fines for air quality violations by medical waste incinerators, increased the length of time allowed for investigating violations and  imposed a five-mile buffer between homes and any medical waste incinerator in the state.

New Recommendations from Clean Air Action Team

Feb 13, 2014
Dan Bammes

  The Utah Clean Air Action Team – the group appointed by Governor Gary Herbert to look at strategies for improving air quality – wants to see a bigger budget for the Division of Air Quality.  That’s one of three new recommendations this week.  The others are expanding public transit and other alternative transportation and continuing public education campaigns on air quality.

Pages