Pollutant data to be available to public
September 3, 2013
Summit County is in the midst of following through on adopting air and water quality strategies to protect "personal and environmental health in Summit County." Headed up by the Health Department, the Strategic Plan proposes using tools such as education and monitoring in better managing air and water quality in the county.
Health Dept. Director Rich Bullough identified the monitoring of two primary pollutants for air quality: particulate matter 2.5 (or PM 2.5), which is the main winter pollutant, and ozone, which is the main summer pollutant.
"When you go down to Salt Lake and it’s hazy, [PM 2.5] is what they’re dealing with," Bullough said. "We’re at a crossroads. Every area around Summit County is in violation of federal air quality standards. We’re a little island. What they’re experiencing now will be our future."
The Health Dept. currently has two monitors each for both PM 2.5 and ozone, and there are four years’ worth of data on PM 2.5. Unfortunately, Bullough said, since Summit County has a population of less than 50,000, there is no online reporting or real-time data on these pollutants. They are working on connecting the real-time data on PM 2.5 to a website that residents can view themselves, which is expected to be operational come this fall.
Ozone, which the Health Dept. says the county has levels near or above federal standards, will not be regulated. Bullough says, however, that warnings could be issued for it.
"It’s very politically charged. I view it as food labeling. It’s information; you can do with it what you want. We want to have people make choices but we have to be careful," Bullough said.
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Bullough also stressed another important initiative the county may take in the future an awareness campaign about the "check engine" lights on cars. Most instances of the check engine light going on, he says, are related to an emissions issue with the vehicle. Since Summit County cannot legally do emissions testing, Bullough believes this is a suitable alternative.
"[Emissions tests] have been shown not to be effective in many cases, but I’m quite enthused about an education campaign around check engine lights," Bullough said.
Roughly 95 percent of vehicles in Summit County are newer than 1996, and since emissions tests are more effective for vehicles older than 1996, this adds another reason to the importance of the check engine light campaign, Bullough said.
On the water quality front, Bullough is excited about two programs that the county has: their on-site wastewater program monitoring septic systems and their drinking-water program, which utilizes a certified laboratory and conducts surveys for public water systems.
"Our lab in Coalville is one of the best labs in the state," Bullough said. "A recent audit just came back it’s squeaky clean and they’re using our lab as a model for other labs across the state."
With the recent approval of the Western Summit County Project Master Agreement, water concurrency will change but still exist. Concurrency officers are responsible for conducting audits of water suppliers to identify what each supplier has, to see if they are efficient and if a surplus exists.
With the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District being an added water supplier and managing all surplus water supplies, handling water concurrency will be easier.
"We’re talking about availability and water quality when we’re talking about concurrency," Bullough said.
For future water quality initiatives, the county wants to form a water quality committee and also propose reporting for septic system pumping businesses. Summit County Manager Bob Jasper sees the latter as an especially pressing matter.
"One of our challenges will be in making it easier for them to report," Jasper said. "If you’re going out there (encountering septic system issues) every other month, your system has failed. We need to be able to go work with those people and say, ‘Here are some options for you.’"
Bullough said that the county has about 7,000 septic systems, but only knows where about half of them are located and to where they pump. Often, he said, those who encounter problems with their septic system do not approach the county for fear of being punished.
"We need to find a way not to convince but to demonstrate that we’re partners in this," Bullough said. "We’re not here to bust people, we’re there to help [them] get the system [they] need and to get it working and not to make it punitive. We’re not the enemy."
Important partners in these efforts, Bullough says, will be with entities such as homeowners associations and Realtor organizations. Educating groups such as these will be important, he says, in telling them the significance of pumping and in notifying the Health Dept. when problems occur.
Moving toward a sewer system in problem areas such as Moose Hollow and Hidden Cove will be a priority, and future development may be put onto the sewer system as well.
Summit County Environmental Health Director Bob Swensen said that the Eastern Summit County Water Conservancy Special Service District (ESAC for short) looks at any proposed development to see whether it will be using an individual septic tank system, a community system or a sewer system. After ESAC signs off on the plan, they pass it on to the state which comes back for approval to the County Council. ESAC then oversees the maintenance and operation of these systems.
Swensen sees ESAC having its own department in the county in the future, or a smaller version of the Snyderville Basin Special Reclamation District. Jasper knows that there are many septic systems with issues in the county and wants to look at aiding such systems.
"We know we have problem areas in this county (related to septic systems)," Jasper said. "We’ll try to work with eastern cities about how we work with the financing to try to extend [these systems]."
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