Air quality in Summit County questioned
Soon the state could begin monitoring air quality in Summit County after tighter pollution regulations resulted in the Park City area being named to a list of possible dirty-air offenders.
"We’ll even push for vehicle-emissions control," said Summit County Health Director Steve Jenkins.
Summit County is among 10 Utah counties state officials believe might fail new air-pollution regulations adopted in September by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said Donna Spangler, public information officer for Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality.
"It is true that the new PM 2.5 regulations are basically very stringent and it’s going to make it difficult for a lot of the counties along the Wasatch Front, including Summit, to meet," Spangler said Tuesday. "It’s going to require some planning."
Jenkins insists, however, that Park City’s air is clean, adding that the state Division of Air Quality is mostly concerned because of the area’s proximity to the smoggy Wasatch Front.
"You’ve got 38,000 people in Summit County and you’ve got a million people in Salt Lake County. And they’re not out of compliance that often," Jenkins said, conceding that air quality in Summit County hasn’t been tested. "But there are a lot of things we’ve done to the environment that over time has an impact."
New federal guidelines specifically crack down on pollution ingredients called PM 2.5.
The microscopic, soot and dust is generated by combustion engines and wood-burning stoves and becomes lodged in the lungs causing a host of physical ailments, Jenkins said.
"It doesn’t kill you but it gives you lots of problems," he said. "They go deep into the lungs."
Motors powering factories and automobiles emit much of the PM 2.5 particles into the air, Jenkins added.
"How many smoking cars do you see going down the road in Park City?" Jenkins asked.
Still, he says he will likely urge the Summit County Commission to purchase roughly $20,000 worth of air-monitoring equipment, which could be operated by the state.
"We don’t think there is any reason that we would have air quality issues here, but, as population trends increase, we could have problems down the road," Jenkins said.
Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer replied, "I think it’s a good thing to try and measure and see what the air quality is."
"It’s really a Salt Lake problem but it encompasses the entire area," Richer said. "No one wants polluted air."
EPA officials claim new PM 2.5 regulations are the toughest air quality standards ever adopted in the United States.
"Regardless of the rhetoric, facts are facts," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "[EPA] is delivering the most health protective national air standards in U.S. history to all 300 million Americans."
Officials hope the revised daily pollution standards will create health benefits valued at between $9 and $75 billion by reducing people’s short-term exposure to the toxins, states an EPA press release that links PM 2.5 to health problems like aggravated asthma, heart and lung disease.
But fewer weather inversions in Summit County helps cut air pollution when compared to the Wasatch Front, Jenkins said.
"You’ll see the air hanging pretty low and by noon it will be gone," he said.
Because air quality in Summit County hasn’t been monitored, Jenkins said he couldn’t elaborate about where testing stations might be installed.
"We would buy the equipment and let the state run it for us," Jenkins said. "I don’t want EPA up here on our back, but I’m not opposed to finding out what the air quality is."
The data, however, must be analyzed before emissions testing would begin on vehicles in Summit County.
"I’m not going to do vehicle emissions control because it’s the chic thing to do," Jenkins said.
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