Utah DEQ News

Tips on Protecting Your Lungs During Wildfires

With the Pole Creek Fire raging and smoke pollution spiking each morning along the Wasatch Front, many residents are wondering what steps they can take to protect their health. Attached is a helpful graphic with a few tips on ways to ensure you and your loved ones can breathe easily.

Stay abreast of current conditions at air.utah.gov.

Tips on how to breathe during a wildfire

Click to enlarge.

Originally posted: September 17, 2018 at 3:26 pm
Last updated: September 17, 2018 at 3:35 pm
Categories: Featured, News

“Get Into The River Festival” Celebrates the Jordan River Parkway

By Soren Simonsen, Guest Blogger

DEQ invites guest bloggers to share their thoughts on issues that impact our environment. We appreciate their insights and the opportunity to broaden the conversation with others in the community.

Get Into the River

There’s plenty of fun to go around at the Get Into The River Festival.

The fifth annual Get Into The River Festival is in full swing on the Jordan River.

The Festival was launched five years ago as a way to raise awareness about the Jordan River and expand audiences of engaged outdoor recreation enthusiasts, conservationists, river advocates, and volunteers. The Get Into The River Festival brings together local governments, the community, and businesses to celebrate, discover, explore, recreate and restore the Jordan River Parkway corridor.

The Jordan River is a unique river in Utah. It is only 50 miles in length, originating from Utah Lake in Saratoga Springs and flowing northward to Farmington Bay at the Great Salt Lake in Davis County. It traverses three counties and 16 cities through the most urbanized area of Utah. An estimated one-fourth of the population of Utah lives within 10 minutes of the river.

Get Into the River

The Festival shows people the beauty of the Jordan River.

Industry, agriculture and community development have had a tremendous impact on the river over the past two centuries. Many of these impacts have impaired water quality, wildlife habitat, the health of the river, and its scenic beauty. As in many cities across the country, the greater Wasatch metro area is rediscovering and revitalizing this hidden gem.

The Blueprint Jordan River was created in 2010 as a broad community vision to improve the Jordan River Parkway corridor. The Jordan River Commission was formed in 2010 as a coordinating agency to support the implementation of the Blueprint. The Get Into The River Festival was launched by the Commission and other partners in 2014, and has expanded from a two-day event in its early years to a full month of activities.

Get Into the River

Taylorsville Fair

With the recent completion of the entire 45-mile Jordan River Parkway Trail in November 2017, several new events have been added this year that utilize the entire Jordan River Parkway Trail.

Recreation events include walking, cycling and paddling activities for all ages and abilities. Education and discovery events include nature walks, bird watching, citizen science and educational programs, often as part of larger community events. Conservation and restoration activities include numerous volunteer opportunities for invasive weed management, planting and seeding, and litter and trash collection on the trail and in the river.

This year’s festival also added several arts and cultural activities, including a children’s choir Beatles tribute in Riverton and a 9/11 memorial and children’s patriotic bike parade in West Valley City. RiverFest is back again this year, expanding and moving to a new location at Salt Lake City’s magnificent International Peace Gardens at Jordan River Park.

Get Into The River

Time to grab your rubber ducky and head to the Get Into the River Festival.

The 2018 festival runs through the month of September. The whole lineup of events and other information is available at the official Festival website GetIntoTheRiver.org.

Soren Simonsen

I am the Executive Director of the Jordan River Commission. The Commission is an inter-local agency working to implement the vision for the Jordan River Parkway.

Utah’s Air: Double-Punch of Ozone and Wildfires this Summer

By Donna Kemp Spangler

Utah's Air

Dollar Ridge Fire. Photo courtesy Utah Fire Info

Wildfires burning throughout the West have many people questioning whether this is the worst summer ever for air pollution. It’s not, but it has been worse than many other years, thanks to the double-punch of high ozone levels and wildfire smoke.

Summer heat is certainly a recipe for ozone, and the various air monitors across the valley registered high ozone levels on many days. Wildfire smoke also sends soot in the form of tiny particulate pollution wafting into the valley.

There’s no question that the wildfires have had an impact on Utah air. But the impact depends on where the fires are burning and the direction the wind is blowing. If wildland fires continue to be the norm, then the impact on air quality in Utah will vary from year to year depending on meteorological conditions.

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) monitors and records the federal ozone standard, set at 70 parts per billion (ppb) over an eight-hour period. But the ozone is only part of the overall impact during the summer. DAQ also monitors for particulate pollution of various sizes. The smaller the particle, the bigger the health risk because those microscopic particles get lodged in the lungs while breathing.

Utah's Air

Wildfires are mostly to blame for high levels of the particulate pollution (PM 2.5) we see during winter inversions. Fires burning in Utah have a direct impact on the local community air quality. This primary particulate matter is emitted directly from construction sites, wildfires, wood burning, gravel pits, agricultural activities, and dusty roads. Fires in California, Oregon, Idaho and elsewhere can have regional impacts. Montana got hit particularly hard last year from wildfires burning in those states.

I asked Kristy Weber, meteorologist for the Division of Air Quality, to do some research, and she found Utah County exceeded the federal standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air (ug/m3) during the month of July and August due to smoke from the Dollar Ridge Fire and others. Salt Lake Valley didn’t necessarily exceed the standard, but as you can see from the second chart, there were spikes associated with fires and fireworks that appear more dramatic compared to the 10-year average.

A couple of other observations Kristy noted:

  • July 4th fell on a Wednesday. There were bigger peaks noted on Thursday and Friday evenings, probably because more people were lighting off fireworks.
  • At the end of July, a period of easterly winds caused the Wasatch Front to be engulfed in smoke from the Dollar Ridge Fire near Strawberry Reservoir.
  • At the end of July and beginning of August, high particulate pollution was measured initially in southern Utah County, with spikes seen in the late night/early morning hours. This was a result of smoke from the Coal Hollow Fire from Spanish Fork Canyon/U.S. 6. This smoke eventually made its way to Salt Lake County and other parts of the Wasatch Front and Northeast Utah in the following days.
  • Towards the end of August, we had a series of disturbances along the Wasatch Front. Southwest winds would often precede the frontal passage, resulting in lower particulate-matter numbers, especially as showers and thunderstorms engulfed the area. Post-frontal passage would be accompanied by smoke-laden but cooler northwesterly winds. This happened a number of times, which is why there were such strong spikes/falls at the end of the month.
  • Of note, even though there were times during the day when monitored values were above EPA’s standard for PM2.5 in August, this is not reflected in the plots since the standard is based on a 24-hour average at a monitor for each day.

Summer is almost over, and the ozone and wildfire seasons are winding down. Our air quality took a bit of a beating this year, but we can hope for better conditions next summer and do our part to reduce our emissions and prevent wildfires.

There are times when the air looks smoggy due to diffused light; it doesn’t mean the air quality is unhealthy. That’s why it is important to follow the air-quality conditions on DEQ’s web page air.utah.gov. and on your smartphone by downloading the UtahAir app. We can’t control the weather, but we can control our actions and make smart choices for good air quality. Visit Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR)  for tips on how you can help improve our air.

Donna SpanglerI am the Communications Director for DEQ and a former reporter for the Deseret News. I am a frequent blog contributor. You can read my previous blog posts at deq.utah.gov/news. You can follow me on Twitter @deqdonna

Public Comment Period Begins for EnergySolutions Request for Exemption from Depleted Uranium Rules

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Public comment begins September 6, 2018, on a request by EnergySolutions for an exemption from state rules requiring a performance assessment for the receipt and disposal of concentrated depleted uranium (DU) in excess of one metric ton total accumulation.

The full public notice, correspondence, and supporting documents regarding EnergySolutions‘ request for an exemption are available on the DEQ Public Notices page.

EnergySolutions, a radioactive waste management company with facilities in Tooele County, Utah, wants to dispose of approximately 6,000 metric tons of solid depleted uranium metal from the disassembly of munitions (depleted uranium solid metal penetrators, also known as DU Penetrators) from the Department of Defense. Under the rules, a performance assessment is required to demonstrate that the applicable performance standards will be met prior to disposal of more than one metric ton (total accumulation) of concentrated depleted uranium. If the exemption is granted as requested, EnergySolutions would not be required to complete a performance assessment.

The Waste Management and Radiation Control Board directed the Director of the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control to solicit public comment on this request. The 30-day public comment period will begin on September 6, 2018, and end on October 9, 2018.

Documents related to this request can be reviewed at the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control DWMRC),  Multi-Agency State Office Building, 195 North 1950 West, Salt Lake City, Utah. Members of the public can view EnergySolutions’ request and the DWMRC response on the DEQ website. Written comments will be accepted if received by 5:00 p.m. on October 9, 2018, and should be submitted to:

Scott T. Anderson, Director
Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control
Department of Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 144880
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-4880

Comments can also be hand delivered to the Division but must be received by 5:00 p.m. on October 9, 2018.

Comments can also be sent by email to dwmrcpublic@utah.gov. Comments sent by email should contain “Public Comment on EnergySolutions’ Request for an Exemption” in the subject line. All documents included in comments should be submitted as ASCII (text) files or in pdf format. All public comments will become of the official administrative record for purposes of judicial review.

For further information, call Don Verbica or Helge Gabert of the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control at (801) 536-0200

Going Green at Work: Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference

By DEQ Communications Office

Going Green

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Although many of us make environmentally friendly choices at home, we don’t always stop to consider the many ways we could “go green” in the workplace. Since many of us spend a good portion of our day at work, those small changes can make a big difference. An added benefit: a green workplace is also a healthier and more productive place to work.

Bring a mug, refillable drink cup, or a reusable water bottle to work.

Bottled water leads to a whole lot of plastic in our waste stream. Fill up a reusable water bottle instead. Running late and need a cup of joe to start your day? All those drink cups add up. Don’t skip your latte or cocoa, bring a travel mug for your morning pick-me-up. And if you want to take a soda break, use a refillable drink cup for fountain drinks. Oh, and skip the straw. Keep an extra mug, cup, water bottle, and bowl in your car. If you get take-out, decline the plastic utensils and use ones you bring from home. Use the bowl as a to-go box for lunch leftovers to reduce the number of  Styrofoam containers going to the landfill.

Invest in reusable kitchen products.

Disposable plates, cups, and silverware are a staple of office get-togethers, but did you know that you can actually save money if you invest in inexpensive reusable dishware and cutlery?  Ceramic, glass, metal, and heavy-duty plastic are all good choices. A little soap and water and you’re ready to go for the next event. Bring water carafes and reusable cups to your meetings instead of a case of plastic water bottles. Attendees drink what they need (saving water) and many may even bring their own water bottles.

Set printers to use both sides of the paper.

One-sided copies as the default option on most printers. Conserving paper is easy if you set up your computer to print on both sides. See if you can get the office printer to automatically print on both sides as well. Better yet, avoid printing altogether by becoming a digital (paperless) office. Fifty percent of business waste is some form of paper. Offices in the U.S. use 12.1 trillion sheets of paper a year, and paper accounts for 25 percent of landfill waste and 33 percent of municipal waste. If you don’t really need to make a copy or print a document, don’t.

Turn off your computer at night.

Computers use a surprising amount of energy, even when they’re in standby mode. So turn your computer OFF when you leave the office. You may want to also ditch the screen saver — standby mode uses a lot of energy. Instead, set your computer to sleep or off mode when you’re away from your desk during the day. Consider using a Smartstrip — a combination power strip and energy-saving tool — to turn off your electronics when they’re not in use. Even small adjustments to your computer settings—such as lowering your screen brightness, reducing the number of tabs you have open, or even downsizing how many applications you use—can save electricity.

Turn off lights.

Countless kilowatt hours are wasted each year lighting empty rooms. Just like you do at home, get in the habit of turning off the lights when you leave the room. Consider putting a small label on light switches reminding others to do the same.


Help reduce pollution and your carbon footprint by telecommuting. Your car or truck emits the most emissions from cold starts. So skip the trip. Telecommuting even one day a week or when the air is bad can make a big difference in air quality. It’s an easy way for you and your company to go green.

Bring your own lunch in a reusable container.

If you’re not able to work from home,  you can still eliminate an unneeded cold start by bringing your lunch and eating in the break room. You’ll keep your leftovers from going to waste, pack healthier meals, and save money by not eating out. Best of all, you’ll have a chance to chat with your co-workers over lunch

Place recycle bins around the office.

You’ve done your part to reduce and reuse. But sometimes you have to recycle. Make it easy by keeping a recycle bin at your desk and setting up bins throughout the office. Want to be even more creative? Set up a compost bin in break rooms for compostable foods. Employees can take the compost home to “season” for use in their gardens or place them in their yard-waste cans.

Think beyond the Three R’s.

We all know the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. But there are other “R’s” that can help us make our workplace a little greener. Repair rather than replace. Refrain rather than acquire. And rethink…because while it may seem easier in the short run to throw something away or buy something new if we rethink our choices, we may discover other ways to “go green.” And that’s good news for us, our workplace, and our planet.

We’d love to hear how you “go green” at your workplace. Please share your ideas with us in the comment section, and we’ll pass them along through our social media channels.



Warning Advisory for HABs Issued for Jordan River and Canals

The Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD) issued a Warning Advisory for the Jordan River and its canals after samples showed levels of anatoxin-a that exceeded the recreation health-based threshold.

Jordan River

Warning Advisory sign for harmful algal blooms. Click for larger view.

Health officials advise people to stay out of the water and keep dogs from entering or drinking river water. Toxins present at this level have not been shown to present a health threat to people kayaking or boating on the surface of the river, but recreationists are advised to avoid areas of scum. SLCoHD also advises caution for the entire river, as cyanobacteria and toxins can spread and conditions change quickly.

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) reports that toxin levels are far below the point where they would issue an advisory for livestock water or have cause for concern for agricultural irrigation.

Samples collected at the Jordan Narrows where the Jordan River enters Salt Lake County, Blackridge Reservoir in Herriman, and at the Wheeler Farm East Canal detected very low levels of anatoxin-a, a potent neurotoxin.  SLCoHD posted warning signs at Wheeler Farm in Murray and Blackridge Reservoir in Herriman, as much of this water comes from the Jordan River and both are popular recreational points. No potentially affected water bodies in Salt Lake County will be closed to access at this time.

SLCoHD will continue to monitor and sample the Jordan River at its entry point into Salt Lake County, Blackridge Reservoir, and Wheeler Farm and will update advisories as necessary.

Toxin Test Results

Lab results from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) lab:

  • Jordan River at the Jordan Narrows: 0.45 micrograms per liter (µg/L) of anatoxin-a; 0.55 µg/L of microcystins
  • Blackridge Reservoir-Herriman: 0.47 µg/L of anatoxin-a; 0.19 µg/L of microcystins
  • Wheeler Farm East Canal: 0.53 µg/L of anatoxin-a; 0.56 µg/L of microcystins

Warning Advisory for Jordan River and Canals

A Warning Advisory indicates a moderate relative probability of acute health risk, cell-count density of 20,000 – 10 million cells per milliliter (cells/ml), microcystin levels of 4-2,000 micrograms per liter (µg/L), or anatoxin-a levels above non-detect. Advisory actions:

  • Do not swim or water ski
  • Do not ingest the water
  • Keep pets and livestock away
  • Clean fish well and discard guts
  • Avoid areas of scum when boating

See the full press release.