Air Quality is good in the Park |

Air Quality is good in the Park

Patrick ParkinsonOf the Record staff

Many air quality problems in Northern Utah occur during temperature inversions in the winter, when pollutants are trapped near the ground.

But a four-month study by the Summit County Health Department concluded that even during colder months air pollution in the Park City area was generally low. Results of the study are based on air monitoring conducted on the West Side of Summit County from Dec. 23, 2009 through April 10.

The highest level of particulate pollution was recorded near Old Ranch Road on March 30.

"We were pretty much out of compliance that day," said Bob Swenson, director of environmental health at the Summit County Health Department.

On March 30, a storm moved into the Salt Lake Valley from the west, he explained.

Winds from the storm increased in strength bringing large amounts of dust particles into the Park City area.

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The air monitoring last winter measured the levels of PM 2.5, which are microscopic particles of soot and dust emitted by fireplaces, wood-burning stoves and combustion engines. The pollutant causes hazardous breathing conditions when it is contained near the ground during inversions.

Weather conditions along the Wasatch Front can push air pollution into Summit County through Parleys Canyon, Weber Canyon or Provo Canyon, Swenson said.

Equipment was used to monitor pollution levels near Old Ranch Road and Quinn’s Junction. The site near Old Ranch Road measured the highest levels of particulate pollution.

Much of the PM 2.5 in the Park City area comes from automobiles. But officials do not require emissions testing when a vehicle is registered in Summit County.

Those regulations could remove the most blatant polluters from the road, Summit County Councilwoman Sally Elliott said.

"Those nasty old dump trucks that pour out black smoke into the air Certainly those trucks are terrible," Elliott said.

The microscopic particles emitted by automobiles cause serious health problems when lodged deep into the lungs.

Pinebrook resident Kim Roush said she is worried about the air she might be breathing in the Snyderville Basin.

She said the pollution is sometimes visible near her home as haze creeps up Parleys Canyon.

Roush asked Summit County officials to approve a resolution encouraging residents not to idle their vehicles.

Elliott said she would support an anti-idling resolution. But she stopped short of saying the county should create a law against the practice with Summit County Sheriff’s Office deputies often idling their cruisers.

"I would like a resolution that states that we encourage people not to idle," Elliott said. "I don’t think we’re at a point yet that we can ask our sheriffs to run around — when they idle their own trucks — and tell people they cannot idle."

Last year, the Park City Council endorsed a statement against idling vehicles. Supporters said discouraging the practice of keeping engines running would be good for the environment and protect public health.

City Hall officials claimed it is more expensive to leave an automobile idling for longer than 10 seconds than it is to turn it off and then restart. Anti-idling signs have been posted in places like Main Street and Swede Alley.

Elliott said similar signs should be posted in the unincorporated areas of Summit County.

"At the department of health we have a significant capacity to educate," said Richard Bullough, director of the Summit County Health Department. "As a department we have supported the idea of an anti-idling resolution."