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Air Assist Helps Millcreek Coffee Roasters Reduce Emissions with Every Cup

By Bailey Toolson, 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.

Coffee tasting at Millcreek Coffee Roasters

Millcreek Coffee Roasters, owned and operated by the Brewster family, has been a staple in the Salt Lake City coffee scene since 1993. Since they opened their doors, the Brewsters have been committed to sustainable business practices and environmentally friendly production, both at home and abroad. Millcreek Coffee is a Visionary Member of Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky Renewable Energy Program, which enables it to meet its energy needs using only renewable wind power. The company has changed all the lighting in its facility to LED and is constantly looking for new ways to lead by example and be green.

Millcreek Coffee Roasters is also committed to clearing Utah’s air. The company approached the Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR) for funding for equipment that would help it reduce its emissions and improve Salt Lake’s air quality.

Air Assist provided Millcreek Coffee Roasters with funding to help it purchase an afterburner for its coffee roaster.

Coffee roaster with afterburner

In November 2016, Millcreek was awarded an Air Assist grant to add an afterburner to its largest coffee roaster. An afterburner is a device attached to the coffee-roasting equipment that eliminates the fumes and particulates emitted during roasting. The afterburner achieves this by heating up and effectively burning off the odors and smoke. The afterburner is vented through the ceiling, and all the emissions are odorless and colorless. According to scientists at the Division of Air Quality, afterburner use during coffee roasting results in a significant reduction of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions — up to 90 percent in most cases. Currently, there is no rule in place requiring coffee roasters to take this step to protect our air. Millcreek Coffee Roasters voluntarily undertook this project to do their part to protect our environment and lead by example.

Millcreek Coffee Roasters has consistently made sustainability and environmental responsibility a central part of its operations. For example, Millcreek purchases its beans directly from the growers when possible and gives its business to growers who use sustainable production practices. What are these sustainable practices? Well, coffee production is a water-intensive enterprise. However, it is possible to reduce the amount of water needed to process coffee by altering drying, pulp removal, and disposal methods. Installing wastewater treatment systems in coffee processing plants enable companies to convert the wastewater into biogas that can be used to generate electricity. Wastewater isn’t the only byproduct of coffee production that can be repurposed. The coffee pulp and other organic left overs are used as natural fertilizer on coffee plantations and the growers can sell this fertilizer to other local farms.

While its suppliers are giving back to their communities, Millcreek Coffee Roasters supports local Utah farmers and gardens by donating used burlap sacks, coffee grounds, and chaff. Instead of sending these items to the landfill, they are repurposed and have a second life at farms and gardens in our state. The burlap sacks, which hold green coffee beans, are used for starts for new plants. Coffee grounds are used for composting and fertilizer. Chaff, a byproduct produced when the husk of the coffee bean is separated during roasting, is used by farmers to oxygenate soil.

Millcreek Coffee Roasters’ decision to seek funding from Air Assist for an afterburner comes as no surprise. After all, the company is conscious of its impact on the environment and is continuously making improvements to reduce its carbon footprint. Air Assist is pleased to partner with Millcreek Coffee in its effort to improve our air quality while roasting every coffee bean to perfection.

The Air Assist Program offers funding to small businesses (those with fewer than 100 employees) in Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Duchesne, Tooele, Salt Lake, Uintah, Utah, Washington, and Weber counties. A variety of companies have received funding from the Air Assist Program, including auto body shops, landscaping companies, coffee roasters, and even cabinet makers. The request form is simple, funding is non-competitive and there is no deadline to apply. The Program has received funding through June 2017, so there is still time to complete a project. The staff is happy to talk with you about the program, answer your questions, and even help you complete the form.   

Bailey Toolson

I have been the Air Assist Program Manager since I joined the UCAIR team about a year ago. Prior to joining UCAIR, I worked for nearly four years with the Division of Air Quality. In my spare time, I enjoy hiking and camping, travel, and all things Italian.



This entry was originally published on April 24th, 2017 and posted in news.

Every Day Is Earth Day at DEQ

By Donna Kemp Spangler

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) attracts employees who have a strong desire to improve Utah’s environment. So it’s no surprise to find a culture at DEQ where employees promote sustainability practices and participate in community cleanups at work and at home.

Every day is Earth Day at DEQ.

Click image to enlarger. Infographic courtesy of one of our blog readers, Duncan McNabb at Norm Reeves Honda, in California.

Earth Day, in many ways, planted the seed for our blogs. In 2015, we launched our first blog series with the “12 Days of Earth Day,” featuring daily blogs from employees who are the “boots on the ground” working to improve the lives of Utahns. Since then, we’ve been highlighting what we do each week with blogs that use a personal approach to explain the issues and our regulatory roles. It’s also another means to reach people on social media.

Why? It’s part of DEQ’s mission, vision and values.

The Utah Legislature defined our mission in Utah Code 25 years ago. According to Alan Matheson, executive director, DEQ’s mission statement boils several statutory provisions into a succinct statement of our role as a regulatory agency that protects our environment in a way that balances society’s many needs.

Our vision reflects the fundamental need that clean air, land and water are essential for human health, our economy, and our quality of life.

DEQ values exceptional service: We solve problems, actively engage stakeholders, and are professional, responsive, and fair.

DEQ values its employees: Every day, DEQ employees walk into our offices determined to accomplish our mission. They come from different backgrounds and see the world in different ways, but they share a love for Utah and commitment to service and excellence.

DEQ values public’s trust and credibility: We earn the public’s trust through science-based solutions and accurate, reliable information accessible to the public.

DEQ values continuous improvement: We are accountable for taxpayer dollars, and look for more effective and efficient ways of doing business.

In the spirit  of Earth Day,  on Friday, April 21, DEQ is joining with Salt Lake City to spruce up its community garden at the Sorensen Unity Center. DEQ employees will plant flowers, weed gardens, spread bark, and connect with other volunteers in the community.

Like me, many of us at DEQ love what we do. It’s challenging at times when constrained by the realities of a layer-cake of state and federal laws. But whether it’s writing a permit or overseeing a cleanup, our goal is to make the environment a better place for all of us. It’s not just a job—it’s a passion. For us, Earth Day is every day.

Earth Day is a great opportunity to participate in making Utah a better place to live. Share your activity, along with a photo, on Facebook or Twitter, and tag DEQ in your post (Utah Department of Environmental Quality) or tweet (@UtahDEQ).

Donna SpanglerI am the Communications Director for DEQ and a former reporter for the Deseret News. I write a monthly blog post. You can read my previous blog posts at You can follow me on Twitter @deqdonna

This entry was originally published on April 17th, 2017, updated on April 19th, 2017, and posted in news.

Residential Wood-Burning: To Burn or Not to Burn

By Nancy Daher

Wood-burning infographic

Wood-burning infographic. Click to enlarge.

More likely than not, you’ve owned a wood-burning appliance and used it to heat your home during cold, wintry nights. What you might not know, however, is that burning wood emits more pollution in the air than other heating devices. Smoke from residential wood heaters contains toxic pollutants and fine particle pollution, also known as fine particulate matter or the “infamous” PM2.5! Residential wood smoke can increase particle pollution to levels that pose serious concerns to your health as well as the health of your family and neighbors. The Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ) currently issues a mandatory no-burn action when PM2.5 levels reach unhealthy levels during winter inversions.

This restriction on those cozy wood fires may have impacted your way of living and left you wondering about how much wood-smoke from your fireplace or wood-stove is actually contributing to Utah’s wintertime PM2.5 pollution problem. I know I enjoy a cozy wood fire on occasion with friends and family. You may also be wondering if wood-burners are really that bad? Doesn’t this seem at odds with the renewable and “green” nature of wood?

Well, the answer is not so straightforward. Using a $70,000 appropriation from the 2015 Utah Legislature, scientists at DAQ recently conducted a study to determine the importance of wood-smoke in PM2.5 during Utah’s wintertime air pollution episodes. PM2.5 samples were collected in areas in Northern Utah that are in non-compliance with EPA’s PM2.5 air quality standards, then analyzed for a specific chemical marker from wood-burning. Findings showed that emissions from wood-burning contribute an appreciable amount of pollution during winter inversions in the sampled areas, even during mandatory no-burn periods. Work is also currently ongoing to determine the impact of a wood-stove change-out program on reducing air pollution levels.

So where do we go from here? How can we keep warm while keeping the air clean?

I am not suggesting that you abandon your fireplace or wood-stove…but taking a few steps to reduce the impact of wood-smoke on air quality, especially during inversion episodes, can go a long way to help everyone breathe a little bit easier.

To learn more about this study, please visit our Wood Burn Study webpage for a detailed explanation of study questions, methods, and findings. Check out EPA’s BurnWise program for useful tips on how you can burn wood more efficiently, responsibly, and safely.

I am an environmental scientist at the Utah Division of Air Quality and an adjunct assistant professor in the department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of Utah. I received my doctorate degree in environmental engineering from the University of Southern California. This is my first blog entry, and I hope you enjoyed it.

This entry was originally published on April 10th, 2017, updated on April 10th, 2017, and posted in news.

Utah Poison Control Tackles Toxins during 2016 Algal Blooms

By Barbara Crouch, 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.

Utah Poison Control Call Center

Utah Poison Control Call Center

Most people think of the Utah Poison Control Center (UPCC) as the go-to resource if their child/grandchild puts something in their mouth that doesn’t belong. The truth is the Poison Control Center is about more than just kids. Poison exposures can happen at any age, and while most poison exposures occur in the home and involve medications and household products, they can occur at any place and any time and may include substances natural to our environment. Last summer, UPCC collaborated with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Utah Department of Health (DOH), Utah County Health Department (UCHD) and numerous other state and local entities in response to an unusually large algal bloom that affected Utah Lake and the Jordan River Canal system. UPCC staff — pharmacists, nurses, and physicians who have additional training in toxicology — were available to respond quickly and effectively to public health concerns about possible exposures to the toxins in the algal bloom.

Calls to the UPCC about the bloom were largely about adverse health effects or the potential for adverse health effects. When Utah Lake was closed, UPCC staff  responded to numerous callers concerned about the impacts to human and animal health from exposure to lake water. On the first day alone, staff documented 246 cases in addition to the 126 “routine” Poison Center cases! Throughout the algal bloom season, UPCC staff provided advice and guidance on over 750 cases, largely involving Utah Lake and Jordan River canals, but also including Scofield Reservoir and Payson Lakes.

Harmful algal bloom on Utah Lake

Adverse health effects were documented in approximately one-third of the cases and included gastrointestinal complaints (nausea, vomiting and diarrhea) as well as headaches and skin and eye irritation. Most adverse effects were minor and didn’t require a trip to the doctor. UPCC staff were able to immediately assess the situation, offer first-aid instructions, and provide follow-up to ensure symptoms were resolving. The UPCC helped callers avoid unnecessary trips to the doctor or hospital, saving them time and money.

UPCC was able to respond quickly to the harmful algal blooms because responding to public health emergencies 24-7 is what we do every day. In addition, our ongoing collaboration with DEQ and DOH to coordinate on environmental public-health issues laid the foundation for this collaborative effort. We already had a multi-agency communication plan in place for harmful algal blooms that instructed people to contact UPCC with their concerns about adverse health effects from exposure. The plan also that helped us all speak with a unified voice right from the start.

This partnership also helped us share important information about the bloom’s health impacts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). DOH made it possible for us to access the CDC’s new One Health Harmful Algal Bloom System, a national database that tracks the effects of harmful algal blooms on human and animal health. We were able to input almost 200 cases into the system, saving DOH a great deal of staff time.

We hope there won’t be any harmful algal blooms this summer, but if there are, UPCC is ready to help. We urge members of the public to call us anytime at 1-800-222-1222 with their questions or concerns, whether it’s about algal blooms or a curious toddler getting into things they shouldn’t.

We are a 24-hour resource for poison information and educational resources and serve the state of Utah with immediate phone support in a poisoning crisis. Our call center at 1-800-222-1222 is staffed by certified, highly educated specialists to help you prevent poisonings and recover from poison-related accidents. Check out our website for more information about our services and resources, including educational materials, poison prevention tips, and toxic (poison) trends in Utah for e-cigarettes, marijuana, opioids, and common poisoning substances.

 I am the executive director of the Utah Poison Control Center. We are a statewide program that is housed in the Department of Pharmacotherapy, College of Pharmacy, University of Utah Health, where I also serve as a faculty member. I was born and raised in Albany, New York, but Utah has been my home for the last 27 years.

This entry was originally published on April 3rd, 2017, updated on April 25th, 2017, and posted in news.

Legislative Session Helps Us All Breathe a Little Easier

By Scott Baird

Summer Ozone

Air Monitoring Center Section manager Bo Call checks DEQ monitoring equipment

The whirlwind of Utah’s 45 day legislative session is over, the dust has settled,  and we at the Department of Environmental Quality want to thank you for helping this session to be a success. The appropriations and legislation approved in this session will ensure that the Department can continue its ongoing work to protect the health, safety, and well-being of the people of Utah.


The governor’s budget included key budget requests for air-monitoring equipment, air-quality research, harmful algal bloom (HAB) response, a water-use study, and a full-time spill coordinator. We are pleased that the legislature approved our base operating budget and several of the Governor’s priority funding requests.

Air-Monitoring Equipment

Funding for new air monitoring topped the list, with $1.4 million appropriated to upgrade and update equipment that was long past its useful life and to meet federal requirements for a new air monitor in Iron County. This year’s appropriation was part of a two-year effort to ensure our air-monitoring system provides citizens with accurate, real-time information about air-quality conditions. Big thanks to all of you who showed your support and reached out to your legislators to help them understand the critical need for the funding. You played an important role in helping us secure the money to upgrade our monitoring system.

Air-Quality Research

We received $200,000 to continue our successful Storage Tank Emissions Pilot Project (STEPP) in the Uinta Basin. The STEPP project uses infrared (IR) cameras to spot leaks in storage tanks at oil and gas operations so operators can fix to the leaky hatches. Identifying and fixing leaks saves product and improves air quality in the Basin.

DEQ scientist holds handful of mud pulled from the American Fork River after the sediment spill.

DEQ’s spill coordinator ensured that the agency responded quickly and efficiently to the Tibble Fork sediment release

Spill Coordinator

As our population grows, oil and chemical spills occur more frequently. The legislature recognized this threat to the state’s water quality and authorized funding for a full-time spill coordinator who can respond to these spills quickly and efficiently.


Environmental bills and resolutions this session addressed a wide range of issues, including air quality, water quality, and waste fees.

HB183 Emissions Settlements Amendments

Litigation over Volkswagen’s use of a “defeat device” to cheat on emission tests led to a court settlement that awarded compensation to affected states, including Utah. We received $35 million from the settlement to reduce diesel emissions. This bill set up the legal infrastructure for the state to receive these funds and invest them in ways that directly improve air quality in Utah. Rep. Steve Handy sponsored HCR5, a companion resolution, to support the use of some of these funds to replace dirty-diesel school buses with clean-fuel buses.

HB392 Air Quality Policy Advisory Board

Lawmakers consider numerous air-quality bills each session but aren’t always sure which ones will have the greatest impact on the state’s air-quality problems. The new Air Quality Policy Advisory Board will examine proposed legislation and identify bills that best address air-quality issues. We anticipate that this new board will work in partnership with DEQ and the Air Quality Board to put forward policies that improve Utah’s air quality.

HCR15 Concurrent Resolution on Sustainable Management of Utah’s Water Quality

This resolution reinforces our commitment to use sound science to find solutions to water-quality issues and partner with our stakeholders to solve water-quality problems.

HCR18 Concurrent Resolution Encouraging Utahns to Consider the Smog Rating When Purchasing a Vehicle

You may not know that you can make a real difference in our air quality by buying a car with a good smog rating. This concurrent resolution encourages residents to look for the vehicle’s smog rating on the car window and consider purchasing a vehicle with a smog rating of ‘8” or above. These cleaner vehicles will help reduce driving-related emissions.

HCR26 Concurrent Resolution Urging Restoration of Utah Lake

Harmful algal blooms (HABs) last summer were a stark reminder of the many environmental challenges facing Utah Lake. This resolution urges comprehensive solutions for restoring the lake, ensuring recreational opportunities, and improving use of the lake for Utah citizens.

Harmful algal bloom on Utah Lake

SB197 Refinery Sales and Use Tax Exemption Amendments

This legislation offers refineries a $1.8 million sales-tax exemption on the purchase of equipment to produce low-sulfur Tier-3 fuels. Use of Tier 3 fuels will help reduce emissions and improve Utah’s air quality.

HB115 Solid Waste Revisions

This bill requires a change to the solid waste disposal fee structure by 2018. We’ll be reaching out to stakeholders for input and ideas on appropriate methods for assessing waste fees.

We are continually encouraged by the high level of public involvement and support for clean air, land, and water and its growing importance for people across the state. It is clear that what happens during the legislative session doesn’t just impact our agency, but all of us — in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the places we recreate, the land we use for our homes and businesses, and the economy that supports our state.

We will continue to work hard to safeguard and improve our air, land, and water for all Utahns and seek your input and participation as we move forward.  Please participate with us and share your questions, concerns, or ideas.

Check out our bill tracking webpage for a look at the environmental legislation introduced during the 2017 legislative session. Visit the Utah Legislature website for a complete list of the bills that were passed, their effective date, and the Governor’s action (signed or not). We hope to see you on Capitol Hill during monthly interim sessions and the 2018 legislative session. Your voice matters!

As the Deputy Director over Policy, Planning and Operational Improvement, I enjoy working with legislators, stakeholders and our employees in finding ways to improve how we do our work. Prior to joining DEQ, I worked in the Governor’s Offices in Utah and Washington and with Deloitte Consulting in D.C., where I helped state and federal agencies identify and implement opportunities to improve. I earned my Bachelor’s Degree at Brigham Young University and my Masters in Public Administration (MPA) and JD degrees from Syracuse University. I LOVE to get outdoors and enjoy SKIING, running, hiking, backpacking, camping, working in the yard, fixing up our broken-down house, and anything else I can convince my wife and four daughters to do with me…oh yeah, and I really like ice cream!


This entry was originally published on March 27th, 2017, updated on March 27th, 2017, and posted in news.

Water, Water, Everywhere: Is Your Drinking Water Safe after a Flood?

Over the past month, snowpack runoff, wet weather, and warm conditions have led to major flooding in northern Utah. When the Bear River crested in mid-February 2017, Garland City, Tremonton, Bothwell, Thatcher, East Garland Park, Riverside, Fielding, Plymouth, Corinne, Deweyville, Portage, and areas below the Cutler dam were hit with area-wide flooding. Roads and railroad crossings were washed out, floodwaters poured into yards and basements, and residents piled up sandbags to keep the water at bay.

The safety of our drinking water is often one of our first concerns after a flood. Fortunately, northern Utah’s public water systems didn’t experience water contamination from the flooding. This is due in large part to ongoing, behind-the-scenes efforts by the water systems and the Division of Drinking Water (DDW) to ensure that residents have a safe and adequate supply of drinking water.

DDW sets up periodic site inspections to ensure that public water systems follow drinking-water rules and regulations. During inspections, water operators look for areas where contamination could enter the system. Public water systems are also required to pull routine samples from areas that represent the entire water system. Finally, these systems are pressurized so the possibility of contamination is minimal.

Click on infographic for larger view

Most of the public water systems also chlorinate their water. The systems that do chlorinate provide an added layer of protection to their water. Chlorine is fed at rates that leave a chlorine residual. The residuals are there to attack contamination that gets into the water system. Operators that work for systems that chlorinate can do a rapid test that lets them know if there is residual. Absence of or low residuals would indicate there could be a problem, and the operator would begin pulling samples to test for bacteria. This continuous monitoring for contaminants ensures the safety of the drinking water. If something were to happen, residents would be notified immediately about the steps they should take, such as boiling their water, until samples are clean.

While residents connected to a public water system don’t need to worry about the safety of their drinking water, homeowners with private wells may. Flooding can compromise the quality and safety of the drinking water if contaminated floodwater enters the vent in the well casing and goes down into the well. The Bear River Health Department is offering free sampling to homeowners with private wells and urging well owners to have their water tested. If the samples show positive for bacteriological contamination, the health department can provide guidance on disinfection procedures. The health department also recommends that homeowners hire pump or well contractors to disinfect drilled, driven, or bored wells that may have been contaminated by floodwaters.

Overflowing septic tanks and sewer systems are another area of concern. Residents with septic tanks should monitor the situation and consider the possibility of private well contamination from septic or sewer systems. The Bear River Health Department advises homeowners with septic systems or flooding near their wells to refrain from drinking well water until it has been tested.

In addition to our ongoing efforts to ensure safe drinking water at the affected public water systems, we have been involved in sending out requests for pumps to help pump out vaults and flooded utilities. A tweet was sent out with the help of the Utah Water and Wastewater Response Network (WARN) to member agencies requesting pumps. Circuit Riders from the Rural Water Association of Utah were deployed to the flooded areas to provide onsite assistance and continue to keep DDW briefed on the situation. The Division is communicating with the health departments and offering technical assistance and resources to the affected systems. We’re also working with the Division of Emergency Management to assist with any technical needs that may arise.

Our main goal is the safety of your water and ensuring you have a good supply of it. We will continue to do all we can to work with the various agencies and offer any assistance, both during spring flooding and any other emergency situations, to keep your drinking water clean and safe.

Want to know more? The Bear River Health Department has prepared a series of fact sheets for residents affected by the recent flooding, including instructions for cleaning indoor sewage contamination, what to do with your septic system after a flood, and how to disinfect your well and test your well water. To learn more about how the Division of Drinking Water works to protect the safety of your drinking water every day, visit our webpage.

I am the Field Services Manager for the Division of Drinking Water. I have been in the water industry for 32 years. I am adjunct faculty at Utah Valley University and have taught several courses on subjects relating to water.

This entry was originally published on March 20th, 2017 and posted in news.