Utah DEQ News

Clear the Air Challenge is Just Around the Corner

By Michelle Brown, Guest Blogger

Using public transit helps to reduce emissions when wintertime inversions trap fine particulates near ground level.

The Clear the Air Challenge is almost here! This annual one-month long campaign is aimed at getting Utah residents to rethink how they get to and from work and how their transportation choices affect air quality. The goal of the Challenge is to have people try alternative transportation strategies to see what mode best fits their lifestyle, with the hope that they will adopt the new method of travel year-round.

The Clear the Air Challenge is celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, and you can help them celebrate by signing up for the 2019 challenge, just visit: cleartheairchallenge.org.  Whether your favorite TravelWise strategy is carpooling with your office buddies, staying fit through active transportation, or skipping the trip all together, all of these alternative transportation methods are helping improve Utah’s air quality.  In all, there are actually seven recognized strategies that you can implement during the Challenge:

Carpool or Vanpool

  • You + passenger(s) driving to and from work


Use Public Transit

  • Bus, TRAX, FrontRunner, Streetcar


Use Active Transportation

  • Walking, biking, scootering, etc.


Trip Chain

  • Combining multiple stops into one trip, preventing multiple trips overall


Telework

  • Working from home, or other remote location, which eliminates your commute


Skip the Trip

  • Plan ahead and avoid unnecessary trips


Use Electric Vehicle – new to this year’s challenge!

  • Take credit for zero-emission commuting


So how do you track your activities after signing up?  Simple!  This year the Challenge is now offering an app that allows you to quickly input your most recent travel.  The app seamlessly links to your Clear the Air Challenge Account if you already have one as well.  Additionally, you can still use the traditional TravelWise Tracker platform available at travelwisetracker.org.   These tools help you see the impact your TravelWise strategies are making and also help you find carpool partners in your area, find best travel routes, and more.

This February, be a part of Utah’s clean air solution and join the 2019 Clear the Air Challenge!

For a great tutorial on how to prepare your office team for the upcoming challenge, checkout the great YouTube EBTR Webinar created by Department of Environmental Quality and Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.  The video walks you through the tool basics, goals of the Challenge, and much more.

 

Michelle Brown is the resource stewardship coordinator. She works with agencies to implement best practices and stewardship measures to improve air quality.

Dreaming of a Green Christmas: Tips for Eco-Friendly Holidays

By DEQ Communications Office

The holiday season is in full swing. If current weather conditions hold, it looks like Utah will have plenty of snow by the end of December. Although this will likely make for a “White Christmas,” the staff at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality have another color in mind—green. We asked our co-workers what they plan to do to make the holiday season more eco-friendly. After all, our mission is to safeguard and protect Utah’s air, land, and water.

Don’t burn. Especially don’t burn your Christmas tree. Burning solid fuel contributes as much as 15 percent of the fine-particulate pollution during an inversion. Stream the Yule Log on Netflix instead. Your lungs will appreciate it. And, as for Christmas trees, burning them is just dangerous.”

Bo Call
Environmental Program Manager
Division of Air Quality

Bo Call


“A lot of people use the holidays as a time to replace old appliances. If that’s your plan, look for options that are energy efficient and produce less emissions.”

Thom Carter
Executive Director
UCAIR

Thom Carter


“There is an ongoing debate about whether a real tree or a fake tree is better for the environment. One thing we know for sure is that we should all switch to LED Christmas lights. Incandescent bulbs waste a lot of energy. Most of it is released as heat, which is why regular light bulbs get so hot. LED use about 75 percent less energy and last 25 times as long, so make sure you buy a set that your grandkids would like to inherit.”

Ben Holcomb
Environmental Scientist
Division of Water Quality

Ben Holcomb


“The end of the year is a good time to take a look at your Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). These reports are sent out yearly and provide all residents with current information on where their drinking water comes from, if there have been any violations for the local water system, or if there are any significant problems with the drinking water facilities. These yearly reports also let residents know about water system improvements, source water protection programs, and information on how the residents can take an active role in protecting and preserving their drinking water.”

Rachael Cassady
Environmental Program Manager
Division of Drinking Water

Rachael Cassady


“It seems like people don’t walk or bike as much during the winter, but they can find opportunities to use public transit. Take TRAX downtown to see the lights.”

Elisa Smith
Administrative Secretary
Division of Environmental Response and Remediation

Elisa Smith


“During the holidays we produce a lot waste. Aluminum drink cans and cardboard boxes are recyclable. It’s a good time to make some extra efforts to ensure recyclables are sorted and disposed of in the right bin.”

Doug Taylor
Environmental Scientist
Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control

Doug Taylor


“Shop online. It’s a good example of trip-chaining–home deliveries by FedEx and UPS are strategically planned to reduce trips. Plus, the DAQ has been helping to upgrade FedEx’s Home Delivery Service trucks to cleaner versions through the Utah Clean Diesel Program.”

Lisa Burr
Environmental Planning Consultant
Division of Air Quality

Lisa Burr (right)


“The shiny wrapping paper isn’t recyclable, so I started giving gifts in reusable bags. It saves a lot of time. I’ll be honest with you, that was the main reason.”

Matthew Wycoff
Environmental Scientist
Division of Drinking Water

Matt Wycoff


“Those boxes that all the presents from online shopping come in are high-value recyclables. Don’t let them go straight into the trash. Break down the cardboard boxes to save space and make sure they end up in the recycling pile.”

Phil Goble
Environmental Program Manager
Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control

Phil Goble


“I make my own Christmas cards. It isn’t a very big thing, but it allows me to reuse and recycle old paper. I know some people have gone to electronic cards, but I still like paper ones.”

Marjory Chelsea
Financial Analyst
Utah Department of Environmental Quality

Marjory Chelsea


“I like to reuse gift bags and gift wrap when possible:

Gift Bags: Gift bags usually come with a removable tag for the recipient’s name – remove the tag and save the bag for reuse next year (just add a new tag with the new recipient’s name).

Gift wrap: take your time opening any gift! This enhances the experience! When you carefully remove the gift wrap, you do not destroy it, and it can be used for another gift. Also, by slowing down, you have more time to think about and appreciate the act of gift giving, and how fortunate you are to be receiving a gift.”

Patrick Sheehan
Environmental Scientist
Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control

Patrick Sheehan

All of us at DEQ wish you and all of yours Happy Holidays!

Ways to Winterize Your Home, Clean the Air and Cut Emissions

Ways to winterize your home

Click for a larger view.

By Jared Mendenhall

For the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), sources of emissions are broken down into three categories: mobile sources, point sources and area sources.

Most of us are familiar with mobile sources. These are the emissions that come from motor vehicles. On any average winter day, about 48 percent of fine particulate pollution (PM2.5) originates from mobile sources.

Another familiar source of emissions is the smoke stacks at industrial locations. These sources are called point sources and they make up about 13 percent of winter PM2.5.

In addition to mobile and point sources, there is an often forgotten and significant contributor to air pollution called area sources. Area sources include small pollution emitters like dry cleaners, gas stations, and auto body paint shops. It also includes residential sources. Fireplaces, water heaters, furnaces and snow blowers all produce emissions that add to the wintertime smog. In fact, these forgotten sources contribute about 39 percent of the inversion gunk.

Properly winterizing your home is one of the easiest ways to cut down on area source emissions. It will also save you money on maintenance and energy costs. Here are a few steps to take before the weather gets any worse.

DON’T BURN

There is nothing as inviting as a warm fire on a cold night. But the smoke that comes from a traditional fireplace can contribute up to 15 percent of the pollution during an inversion episode. The easiest solution, don’t burn. If you just can’t get away from the fire, be sure to check air.utah.gov to ensure you aren’t burning on a no burn day. Also, consider switching out that traditional wood-burning stove with a natural gas one.

KEEP OUT THE DRAFT

Be sure all the important spots (attics, basement, exterior walls, crawlspace, etc.) in your house are well insulated. You will see big reductions in the energy it takes to heat your home from this important step. If you are looking for an eco-friendly alternative to traditional insulation, try looking into recycled denim or wool insulation.

Leaky windows and doors can let the cold air in and the warm air out. Drafty windows can account for up to 30 percent of your home’s heat loss. Solutions can be relatively easy and affordable. Take immediate actions by weatherstripping and caulking trouble spots. There are also old-fashioned remedies like heavy drapes and curtains that improve your home’s energy efficiency. Remember, keep curtains open on the south-facing windows during the day. This will allow sunlight to heat your home naturally.

FURNACE SERVICED

Your home heating system is key to staying warm indoors during the coming months. A faulty or inefficient system uses extra energy and will bewilder homeowners when they just can’t seem to keep the house warm. Make sure your furnace is ready by switching out your filters on a regular basis. A clean filter ensures better airflow and greater efficiency. Same goes for the vents—keep them clean.

If you haven’t already, get a smart thermostat. A high-tech thermostat will raise and lower the temperature without any thought. This will keep the furnace from running when everyone is away. If you don’t have the money for one of these gadgets, remember to do it manually. And, of course, put on a sweater and run the furnace a few degrees cooler. After all, it’s winter .

REDUCE WATER HEATING COSTS

Give your water heater a break. Flush out the heater each year. This will help remove build up and sediment. Your hot water heater will run more effectively, heat more water and keep that comforting shower ready each morning. You can prevent pipes from freezing and ensure faster delivery of hot water by wrapping your pipes. Also, lower your water heater temperature from 140 to 120 degrees. It is barely noticeable in the tub, but could save you a ton on your utility bill. When it’s time for a new water heater, choose a low-NOx unit to further reduce emissions.

ENHANCE YOUR INDOOR AIR QUALITY!

With your home sealed up tight for winter, your indoor air quality can suffer. Take measures to protect indoor air by keeping floors and carpets clean and free of dust. Stay away from aerosols and chemical cleaning agents. And, get a houseplant or two. Pot Mums, Peace Lilys and English Ivy aid in the removal of pollutants.

I am a public information officer for DEQ and a former marketer and magazine editor. Follow me on Instagram @Jarv801.

A Little Detective Work: Investigating Sites for Contamination

By Chris Martin

I have a great job — I get to be a detective. I piece together various pieces of information — site observations, regulatory databases, records, interviews, historical documents, aerial photographs, fire insurance maps, city directories, and topographic maps — to pinpoint sources of potential contamination from past industrial activities. My detective work uncovers information that can be used in planning out investigations and performing remedial actions.

contamination

Chris Martin checks groundwater near the former Geneva Steel site for contamination.

The CERCLA Branch in the Division of Environmental Response and Remediation (DERR) at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality performs site investigations of potentially contaminated sites within the State of Utah to determine whether or not they pose a threat to human health and the environment and should be included on the federal Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). The Branch also manages or performs oversight of remediation activities at NPL sites and federal facility sites, promotes the voluntary cleanup of contaminated sites, and encourages redevelopment of Brownfields by providing a streamlined cleanup program. The streamlined cleanup program often includes coordination with the underground storage tank (UST) Branch and other DEQ divisions.

The Site Assessment program is the initial phase of the federal Superfund program. Environmental personnel perform preliminary assessments and field investigations of potentially contaminated sites to determine if they should be included on the NPL. In addition, the Site Assessment program coordinates with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Removals Branch. This branch responds to oil spills, chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear incidents, and large-scale national emergencies including homeland-security incidents.

Historic Contamination

contamination

Former manufacturing site in Utah County

Most of Utah’s current cleanup sites are related to historic events and existing resources. These spawned two important industries: steel manufacturing and defense contracting (particularly aerospace manufacturing). Later, electronics and computers became another important industry in Utah.

Completion of the world’s first transcontinental railroad at Promontory, Utah, occurred about the same time as the first mining district was established in Utah. The railroad brought finished goods from other parts of the country, spurring growth. The onset of World War II led to a huge expansion of manufacturing throughout the west. During and shortly after World War II, the federal government spent billions of dollars nationally on manufacturing facilities and scientific research, and much of that money was spent in Utah.

Probably the biggest federal government investment in manufacturing in the state was the Geneva Steel Works in Utah County. This $200 million project permanently altered Utah’s manufacturing structure. The federal government felt it necessary to have a steel plant away from the coasts so it would less likely to be a target of enemy attack.

Steel manufacturing was not the only industry the federal government helped establish in Utah. During the second decade after World War II, another major industry began to develop defense-manufacturing facilities. In 1956, Sperry Rand Corporation (now Unisys) came to Utah to build missiles. Two years later, Thiokol Corporation located a plant west of Brigham City to build solid-fuel propellants for the Minuteman missiles. Established companies like Hercules Corporation, which located in Bacchus, Utah, in 1914 to produce blasting powder for mining, shifted to defense contracting as the need for these products increased. In 1958, the company entered the aerospace industry by producing rocket engines.

Growth of the aerospace industry in Utah accelerated with the arrival of McDonnell-Douglas in 1987. One of the two giant airplane manufacturers in the United States, McDonnell-Douglas employed about 600 people in Utah and produced parts here for the company’s airplanes. McDonnell Douglas and Boeing merged in 1996 and became one of the largest aerospace companies in the world. Boeing still operates in Utah.

Computer software and electronics are other recent growth industries in the state; examples include Novell and WordPerfect. Founded in 1983, Novell became an industry leader in designing computer software “local area network,” or LAN systems. These two companies established a base in Utah for what is now the largest tech sector growth in the United States in an area dubbed the “Silicon Slopes.”

From Contamination to Beneficial Reuse

While industries brought jobs and prosperity to Utah, some of them left behind a legacy of contamination. Many companies used toxic chemicals in the manufacturing process, and production wastes that would now be considered hazardous were stored onsite, sometimes leaking into the soils and groundwater below. In addition, environmental regulations at the time were either non-existent or very lax.

contamination

Checking groundwater monitors for signs of contamination

These contaminated sites, however, are becoming increasingly important as developable land as Utah grows. The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute estimates that the Utah population will reach about 5.8 million by 2065. Returning these lands to beneficial reuse is a high priority in the state, not only for economic development but also for the protection of groundwater and soils.

For example, Vineyard, the city near the former Geneva Steel mill, has become one of the fastest growing areas in Utah. Monitoring groundwater at the site is important for the health of the businesses and families near or on the former manufacturing area. Hundreds of support businesses sprung up around the steel mill while it was in operation. After the mill shut down, many of the businesses shuttered also, some of them leaving contamination behind.

DERR plays an important role in the beneficial reuse of these properties through our investigation and assessment of the type and extent of contamination both on and offsite. Our detective work ensures the appropriate cleanup and remediation of these lands so they can be a place for Utah residents to live, work, and play.

To learn more about our work cleaning up land for beneficial reuse, visit the Division of Environmental Response and Remediation (DERR) CERCLA web pages or the DEQ State of the Environment Report, where you can see descriptions of some of the businesses, municipalities, and schools we’ve assisted with cleanup efforts.

 

I have been an environmental scientist at DERR for about 6 years. Prior to working at DEQ, I worked as an environmental consultant. I received a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering from the University of Utah. I have a wonderful wife, two crazy kids, and a furry dog. We spend most of our vacations exploring. This past year, we hit Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton National Parks.

 

Logan First PM2.5 Nonattainment Area in Utah to Meet Federal Standard

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that the Logan PM2.5 nonattainment area meets the conditions for attainment. This determination makes it the first PM2.5 nonattainment area in the state to reach attainment since the standard was tightened 12 years ago. The Logan area currently meets the 2006 24-hour PM2.5 federal standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) based on certified air-monitoring data from 2015-2017.

Logan PM2.5 Attainment

Clear skies in Logan, Utah, have become more common as emission reductions improve the area’s air quality.

When monitored air-quality data in a designated nonattainment area shows the area meets the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)  EPA  suspends the submission of certain State Implementation Plan (SIP) requirements as long as the area continues to meet the standard. Under this Redesignation and Clean Data Policy (CDP), the following will no longer be required for the Logan area:

  • Reasonable further progress (RFP) requirements
  • Attainment demonstrations
  • Reasonably Available Control Measures (RACM)
  • Contingency measures
  • Other state planning requirements related to attainment of the NAAQS

Local Efforts, National Funding Help Reduce Logan Emissions

The Division of Air Quality (DAQ), county officials, and the Bear River Health Department worked collaboratively to develop a plan to reduce emissions and secure funding for targeted emission reductions.  A vehicle emissions-testing program, wood-burning restrictions, projects funded through EPA airshed grants, and behavior changes by Cache Valley residents are credited with air-quality improvements in the former nonattainment area.

Emissions Testing Program

In 2013, Cache County officials drafted their first-ever emissions-testing program. The program began in 2014 and requires vehicles six or more model-years old to obtain a smog certificate every other year. Vehicles manufactured in or before 1968 are exempt, as are vehicles during their first five model years. The Bear River Health Department oversees the program. 

Targeted Airshed Grants

EPA’s Targeted AirShed Grant program helps state and local agencies implement projects that reduce air pollution in nonattainment areas with the highest levels of PM2.5  and ozone.

DAQ’s first Clean Car Clinic helped raise awareness about the air-quality impacts of dirty vehicles and provided incentives for vehicle owners to repair or replace polluting vehicles. Photo credit: Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

In 2016, EPA awarded a $2.5 million Targeted Airshed Grant to the Division of Air Quality (DAQ)  to replace school buses in Cache and Utah Counties and fund a Vehicle Repair and Replacement Assistance Program in Cache County to help qualifying owners repair or replace vehicles that fail emissions testing. The Cache County Vehicle Repair and Replacement Assistance Program (VRRAP) provides funding assistance to individuals whose vehicle fails vehicle emission standards to replace their failing vehicle with a newer, cleaner one or repair it. The amount of financial assistance depends on household income, household size, and whether the applicant chooses to replace or repair the failed vehicle. Financial assistance can be as high as $5,000 for a vehicle replacement or $1,000 for a repair.

In 2018, DAQ received another round of EPA funding for two projects in Cache County through the program:

  • The Logan Wood-burning Appliance Changeout Project received approximately$3.2 million to reduce residential wood-smoke emissions by changing out uncontrolled wood-burning appliances with either gas or propane heating appliances, replacing uncertified wood stoves/inserts with EPA-certified wood-burning units, and removing uncertified wood-stoves/inserts.
  • The Logan Heavy-Duty Diesel Vehicle Replacement Project also received approximately $3.2 million to provide rebates to replace 1999-2006 model-year medium- and heavy-duty diesel with trucks that meet the most stringent emissions standards.

Cache Clean Air Consortium

The Cache Clean Air Consortium was formed in early 2013 by a small group of concerned citizens to improve air quality within Cache Valley and northern Utah. Since then, the consortium has grown and expanded its outreach to include idle-free campaigns at local schools, clean-air conferences, and collaborative efforts that lead to meaningful air-quality changes at the local level.  

Details of the EPA determination can be found in the Federal Register.

Monitoring Matters: How Air-Quality Monitoring Helps Utah’s Air

By DEQ Communications Office

 

Air monitoring is the beginning–and the end–of everything we do at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to protect and improve Utah’s air. The Division of Air Quality’s (DAQ’s) statewide monitoring network gives us the ability to:

  • Collect long-term air-pollution data
  • Assess the levels of air pollution relative to regulatory standards
  • Prepare three-day forecasts and pollutant trend charts
  • Provide real-time air-quality data for the public
  • Find solutions when air pollution becomes a problem

If our monitoring data show air-pollution levels above the federal health-based standards, we begin looking for ways to reduce emissions to correct the problem. We have a variety of tools to address air pollution, including air-quality planning, rules and regulations, permit conditions, air-quality research, and enforcement actions. After we implement changes, we monitor again and continue to monitor to see how the rules and/or permit conditions are working. If we don’t see the improvements we need or expect, we look at other options. Throughout the process, we use our monitoring data to gauge how well we’re doing and where we can improve our efforts.

Monitoring Equipment

Our data are only as good as our equipment. That’s why our regulatory monitors have to meet strict requirements. The statewide stationary air-monitoring system is designed to measure pollutant levels, ensure compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), and provide data for air-quality modeling. The equipment we use in our monitoring network has to meet Federal Reference Method (FRM) or Federal Equivalency Method (FEM) requirements. These requirements ensure that our data are accurate and representative of the conditions in the airshed. We follow a prescribed set of procedures that include proper siting, precise calibration, regular maintenance, data validation, and periodic audits to ensure proper equipment functioning. Our quality control/quality assurance procedures certify the accuracy of the data we report to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the public.

Pollution Monitoring

DAQ monitors for two types of pollutants: particle pollutants (such as PM10 and PM2.5) and gaseous pollutants such as oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and ozone. Each type requires slightly different monitoring equipment.

We use filters for particulates (think of your furnace filter, only with the capacity to trap extremely fine particles). Our scientists put these filters on our monitors to collect the particles in the air over a 24-hour period. The filter fills up with particles for 24 hours (the NAAQS have a 24-hour standard for particulates), then the monitor draws air into the next filter for another 24 hours.

Air-monitoring staff go out every week or so to collect and replace the filters at our monitors and bring them back to the lab for weighing. We weigh the filters before we install them, and weigh them again when they are filled. We compare the initial weight to the filled weight to determine the amount of particulates collected on the filter. That number goes into a calculation that includes the airflow to see how much air has gone through the filter. The final sum gives us the mass concentration in micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3). Since the federal health-based standard is 35 µg/m3 over a 24-hour period, we always hope to see less than the standard average on our filters. Short-term events like a truck idling near a monitor may have an impact, but shouldn’t affect the 24-hour average.

monitoring

The Hawthorne monitor provides critical information on Wasatch Front air-quality conditions.

In addition to filter-based methods for collecting particulates, DAQ has a variety of real-time technologies that read particulate levels every five to six minutes. These data from monitoring instruments across the state feed into a central network that we use to populate our air-quality webpage and mobile app. The filter-based method for determining particulate levels takes several days to a week to verify; continuous methods provide real-time data.

DAQ also has the monitoring capability for gaseous pollutants. Our continuous monitoring equipment measures gases in real time, which is helpful during high-ozone episodes. Monitoring sensors can capture changes in ozone levels minute-to-minute, although we typically look at one-hour intervals. This method is particularly helpful for pollutants that can vary significantly over a shorter time span. For example, because ozone is formed through a photochemical reaction, if the sun goes behind the clouds or sets at the end of the day, we can see the ozone levels dropping in real time.

Real-time Data for the Public

DAQ monitors serve another important purpose besides mapping trends and measuring our compliance with federal health-based air-quality standards: they provide the public with real-time data on current air-quality conditions. These data are particularly important for sensitive populations such as children, the elderly, and those with respiratory conditions or cardiovascular ailments. Users of our webpage and phone app can access real-time air-quality conditions, action alerts, air quality index information, and three-day forecasts — information they can use to plan their day, limit outdoor activities, or make different transit choices.

Monitoring Matters

Monitoring informs everything we do at DAQ — from our air-quality modeling to our planning, from our permit conditions to our rules. Monitoring shows us when and where there’s a problem and verifies whether we’ve adequately addressed the problem. It helps us predict bad-air days so we can issue voluntary and mandatory action alerts to keep air pollution from getting worse. It provides critical information for people with respiratory issues. While monitoring can’t prevent our air-pollution issues, it plays a key role in remedying them.

Let our air-monitoring system keep you informed about our air quality. Check out the DAQ air-quality alert system on our website or the free phone app UtahAir available for both Android and iOS users.