Soon air quality in Park City will be tested
Perched at the edge of the smoggy Wasatch Front, Park City is impacted by winter weather inversions that affect air people breathe in Salt Lake. State officials, though, say they cannot justify spending money on air testing in the area so Summit County officials have purchased their own monitors.
Soon equipment in the Snyderville Basin and Park City will analyze those air samples.
"We always believed that we’ve been below the national ambient air quality standards," Summit County Health Department Director Steve Jenkins said in a telephone interview. "But our concern is that we sit there in the dark and not know what’s going on. Then all of the sudden it’s too late to start taking any action."
Officials began collecting air-quality data in western Summit County last winter.
Upticks of pollutants in the air occurred in December and March, however, they didn’t exceed national ambient air quality requirements the Environmental Protection Agency defines.
"We had fewer inversion periods last winter than maybe have been typical over the past few years But we did violate the (EPA) standards here in the Salt Lake area," Utah Division of Air Quality spokesman Bryce Bird said Thursday about air tested lasted winter. "We did see periods where pollutant levels did increase (in Park City) during those times, but they still remained below the national health standards."
Dangerous microscopic particles of soot and dust, which stoves, combustion engines and coal-fired power plants emit, make up the pollutant, PM 2.5.
High pressure above Salt Lake City in the winter traps air pollutants near the ground causing hazardous breathing conditions for the elderly and very young.
"It puts a lid on the valley and that includes the high mountain valleys," Bird said. "Any emissions that are generated are trapped in where the people are."
But the conclusion this year from the state was the amount of pollution the study found did not justify further testing in Park City.
"Right now our resources are very limited," Bird said. "As we look at monitoring priorities, we have to take that into account."
Air quality in Utah has been tested for 35 years at 109 sites, he explained.
"Along the Wasatch Front, basically from Spanish Fork up to Logan, is where we find air quality problems, and in fact, several areas are actually violating the national ambient air quality standards for both PM 2.5 and ozone in the summertime," Bird said. "Even though we don’t have monitors located in all areas that are neighboring the Wasatch Front, those are included in what we call our modeling domain."
Still, continual monitoring must occur in Summit County, said Mary Jacquin, co-chairwoman of the Park City chapter of Moms for Clean Air.
Wednesday she addressed the state Air Quality Board.
"We talked about the potential impact to tourism in our community, which would certainly have a ripple effect in the state of Utah," Jacquin said in a telephone interview Friday. "We were asked to appear before the board based on the letter-writing campaign our chapter organized in October."
Thirty-four group members in Park City asked for further testing because data collected last winter is incomplete, she explained.
"What is important here is having a baseline for which we can measure against and see if these initiatives that we’re doing are working," Jacquin said.
She praised Summit County for obtaining equipment to begin testing air quality at two locations in the Basin and Park City.
"[Summit County] has purchased two mobile monitors that they are going to be installing in the next couple of weeks," Jacquin said. "Clearly people in our community and public officials are listening to what we’re saying as a voice for the rest of Summit County."
All next year monitors will be operation, Jenkins said.
"We don’t have any background data for Summit County," Jenkins said. "We started last year to get some and we just need to continue that to see where we’re at You can’t stick your head in the sand and say, ‘Oh, well we don’t have a problem because we can see the clear blue sky.’"
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