Air quality in Park City will be monitored
May 26, 2007
Summit County officials will test air quality in Park City for pollution, but they may scrap plans to require Parkites have emissions tested before registering their vehicles.
"Vehicle emissions inspections are becoming perhaps a thing of the past," Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer said.
Since 1995 cars have come with catalytic converters that reduce toxins that go into the air, he said, adding that Summit County would spend $1.3 million to start emissions testing.
"All of the vehicles that are brand new are meeting EPA requirements," said Steve Jenkins, director of the Summit County Health Department.
Still, the naming of the county to a dubious list of possible dirty-air offenders prompted politicians to attempt to reduce PM 2.5 particles spewed into the air by fireplaces, two-stroke motors and about 40,000 vehicles registered in Summit County.
"Our population in Summit County wants to protect our environment and keep it as pristine as possible," Richer said. "It’s a no-brainer."
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PM 2.5 is microscopic-sized soot and dust generated by combustion engines and wood-burning stoves that becomes lodged in the lungs harming the respiratory system and can cause heart disease and strokes.
Summit County was among 10 Utah counties state officials believe might fail tighter air-pollution regulations adopted last year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. EPA officials claim stricter PM 2.5 regulations are the toughest air quality standards ever adopted by the federal government.
Metropolitan counties are struggling to comply with the laws, according to Utah Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Donna Spangler.
But the air people breathe along the Wasatch Back is clean, claimed Jenkins, who added that the state Division of Air Quality is mostly concerned because of the county’s proximity to the smoggy Wasatch Front.
He expects air quality in Park City and the Snyderville Basin to be tested.
"We want to try and pick some things off of (Interstate) 80 and Kimball Junction," Jenkins said.
The effects of weather inversions that trap pollution in the air and make it seem soupy in Salt Lake City creep up Parleys Canyon into the Snyderville Basin when traffic is heavy and people are using wood-burning stoves.
"It can’t go anywhere and when you’ve got mountains all around there is no drain hole for that stuff to run out of and it just sits there," said Rick Sprott, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality.
The dirty looking air contains PM 2.5, Sprott warned.
"They go deep into the lungs," Jenkins said about the particles, adding that the amount of toxins in the air could increase as more people move to Park City.
But Jenkins conceded that air quality in Summit County hasn’t been tested.
"The environment is part of the infrastructure," said John Tuerff, president of Citizens Allied for Responsible Growth, a Park City environmental watchdog group. "The development’s got to be able to be supported not only by the traffic infrastructure, but the environmental infrastructure."
Tuerff applauded efforts to test air quality on the West Side.
"Who wants to come ski in the smog? Nobody wants to come mountain bike in the smog," he said. "If we’ve got smoggy skies we’re certainly going to impact not only our economy, but our environment."
Portable monitors to measure air pollution in Park City could be deployed next fall.
"The air is probably fairly clean," Sprott said in a telephone interview. "Folks who live in the area need to know what in the heck’s going on."
Technicians haven’t determined where to place monitors to measure the highest levels of pollution on the West Side.
"We’re probably not going to find high levels, but, you never know," Sprott said. "We think that [testing] is very prudent and we’re anxious to put together a plan of action."
A more permanent monitoring station could be installed should tests show air in Summit County is highly polluted, Jenkins said, adding that the equipment could cost $181,000.
"I think the air is pretty clean, but if you don’t have any data, how do you know?" he asked.