Summit County residents, for the most part, are conscientious about preserving their environment. They contribute to open space purchases, recycle their trash and generally support efforts to switch to more efficient energy sources. Regardless, according to recent reports compiled by the state Department of Environmental Quality, the county's air quality is getting worse, not better.
But the truth is out. Our own pristine mountain air is also starting to show signs of wear and tear. According to the most recent data collected at reporting stations in the Snyderville Basin, ozone levels topped the maximum acceptable cutoff point seven days this winter.
Part of the problem can be blamed on the metropolis on the other side of the ridgeline. This winter in particular, locals held their breath while traveling back and forth to the Salt Lake Valley where the yellowish brown air often exceeded national safety standards.
Some of the pesky pollutants measured in Summit County over the winter drifted up from the Salt Lake Valley, but plenty originated right here. And Summit County residents are not completely innocent when it comes to adding to Salt Lake's ongoing air quality challenges – lots of locals commute to and from the city for work, school and entertainment. Many make the drive alone instead of carpooling or taking the new SLC/PC express bus.
Obviously, air pollution doesn't respect municipal or county boundaries. So, when it comes to trying to improve air quality, it will have to be a regional effort. That means continuing to do the things we are already doing – like converting commercial fleets to natural gas, encouraging the use of wind and solar energy and expanding public transit. But it should also entail working with Salt Lake entities on reducing the number of vehicles on the highway, strengthening and enforcing emission standards and protecting the existing natural landscape.
In the past, Summit County may have looked down at the valley with a smug sense of superiority. But now, smug is being replaced with smog and action is likely to be more effective than blame.
Here are some places to start:
Utah Dept. of Environmental Quality: http://www.airquality.utah.gov/
Choose Clean Air: http://www.cleanair.utah.gov/
Utah Moms for Clean Air: http://www.utahmomsforcleanair.org/