By Bo Call
Last week, a few hours after the sun came up, a crew from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Division of Air Quality (DAQ) lowered a small shed-like structure to the grounds of the new Utah State Prison. Soon, this tiny white shelter will house a host of scientific instruments designed to monitor air pollution and potential emissions from Utah’s inland port. This station is one of two new monitoring locations state regulators are setting up to measure how the inland port will affect air quality along the Wasatch Front.
During the past year or so, there has been a lot of talk about the development of an inland port in the northwest quadrant of the Salt Lake Valley. For the uninitiated, an inland port is a dry port that centralizes transportation for receiving and distributing goods. Some residents have expressed concerns that an increase in rail and truck traffic associated with the port could have serious impacts on air quality in Northern Utah.
The Utah Inland Port Authority Board is aware of this potential threat and has outlined a vision for an environmentally-sustainable port on the 16,000 acres. The Utah State Legislature also addressed environmental concerns when it passed a bill in 2019 requiring developers of the port to implement a plan that includes an environmental sustainability component. Part of this bill appropriated funding to DAQ to conduct emissions monitoring and reporting at the site.
To develop an air-quality monitoring plan for the site, the scientists at DAQ started by looking at meteorological data. The key piece of data they were looking at was the daily wind patterns. Typically, the surface wind blows across the site in either northwest or southeast flow.
Then, scientists looked for locations to set up two monitors to measure emissions entering and leaving the port site. One monitor would be situated at the southeast of the inland port and the other at the northwest corner. Using these two monitoring stations in concert, DAQ staff can develop a clear picture of how much additional pollution is created by the port.
The first monitor was set up in May at the Monticello Academy, a charter school in West Valley City, to capture data from the southeast. The second monitor, the one installed last week, is seated at the new Utah State Prison. This one, of course, will capture measurement from the northwest side of the port.
These additions to DAQ’s monitoring network, which consist of 22 stations across the state, will play an important role in providing regulators with valuable information to better address growth and air quality in Utah. These monitors look for a variety of pollutants known to harm humans. These include the fine particulates that make up wintertime inversions and the ozone that affects summertime air.
In the coming weeks, the teams from DAQ will finish installing the equipment and testing the new monitors. Once the two stations are fully operational, DAQ’s monitoring section will gather baseline data about current air pollution around the inland port. This baseline data will allow regulators and lawmakers to assess the full impact of the port and make decisions based on science and the law.
The information from DAQ’s monitoring network is provided to the public at air.utah.gov. Here you will find a three-day forecast, the latest monitored levels of pollution, and historical information on air pollution throughout the state. The latest version of UtahAir app, which provides all of this information to your phone, is available for iOS and Android users.
I have been with the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) for 25 years, managing the air monitoring section since 2009. Prior to that I worked in DAQ’s compliance branch and conducted source inspections, specializing in asbestos rules and enforcement. I have a BA in Biology from Utah State University. I am a retired member of the Air Force Reserve as a Transportation Specialist. On my own time, I have a hobby farm and recently entered into the realm of beekeeping.