Investigators wonder if Park City has bad air | ParkRecord.com
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Investigators wonder if Park City has bad air

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Officials at Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality will begin monitoring air Parkites breathe for harmful microscopic particles that become lodged deep in the lungs and cause a host of physical ailments.

Air people breath in western Summit County hasn’t been monitored since 2002 when crowds descended upon Park City for the Winter Olympic Games.

"The population has increased It is an unknown right now," Bird said. "In the past we showed that the air (in Park City) was meeting the national air-quality standards."

The fine soot and dust spewed into the air from chimneys and automobiles, has been linked to strokes, aggravated asthma, heart and lung disease.

"It remains airborne, and because of that, it can get by your body’s natural defenses against particles," Utah Division of Air Quality spokesman Bryce Bird said.

"Sometimes they’re acids, sometimes they’re organic compounds and sometimes they’re even hazardous, air-pollutant compounds," Bird said. "The best way to [test] is a targeted study during an inversion period, or two, to see both the distribution and concentrations that are present there in Park City."

So the division is installing monitors to test air during dreaded weather inversions when the highest levels of so-called PM 2.5 are present.

"The pollutants are trapped at ground level because of warmer air that is above them. Once the lid is put on, it’s the locally generated emissions that tend to build up under those inversions," Bird said. "If you put a lid on it, all the emissions that are being generated from automobiles and industries and wood-burning stoves, it does tend to concentrate during those inversion periods."

Summit County is among 10 Utah counties that state officials believe could fail tougher pollution regulations adopted last year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Summit County Health Department will operate monitors stationed in Park City, Bird said, adding that air will blow through "paper-looking filters" for 24 hours before samples are tested in a lab.

"If we see any filters that come back that give us concern, we’ll look at doing more monitoring or possibly placing a permanent monitor," Bird said.

Officials will initially test air collected near McPolin Elementary School and a water well in Snyderville.

The county may need to buy its own equipment to conduct ongoing testing, Summit County Commissioner Ken Woolstenhulme said.

Fewer weather inversions in Summit County help cut air pollution when compared to the Wasatch Front, according to Summit County Health Department Director Steve Jenkins.

"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 recently told The Park Record.

Before expensive, emissions testing is performed on vehicles, officials must determine if there is a problem, Jenkins stressed.

There are about 40,000 automobiles registered in Summit County. Most cars have catalytic converters that reduce air toxins, Jenkins said, adding that tighter regulations on snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles could help.

Information about air quality in Utah is available at airquality.utah.gov and cleanair.utah.gov.


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