Utah DEQ News

New Locations in Utah Added to Fish Advisory List

Utah added three new waterbodies to its Mercury Fish Consumption Advisory list this week after officials found elevated levels of mercury in fish tissue at Causey Reservoir, Minersville Reservoir, and Navajo Lake.  

fish advisory

Brown trout. Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons. Photo credit Corey Kruitbosch

New to the list are:

  • Brown trout at Causey
  • Wiper at Minersville
  • Splake trout at Navajo Lake

Why does DEQ test fish?

We test fish from lakes, rivers, and streams in Utah to make sure the fish you catch are safe to eat.  Contaminants get into fish through the plants and animals that they eat., and some of these chemicals remain in the body of the fish. Older and larger fish have eaten more and been in the water longer, so there may be more contaminants in their bodies. When you eat these fish, the contaminants get into your body, too.

What is a fish advisory?

The Utah Department of Health looks closely at the data from our sampling and issues fish consumption advisories. These advisories outline recommendations for limiting intake of specific fish at specific locations. 

fish advisory

Splake trout

Fish advisories give you information to help you decide where to fish, which fish to keep, and how much fish to eat. An advisory will list a lake, stream, or river and will list the types of fish that are unsafe in that area. Many lakes, streams, and rivers in Utah do not have advisories. Not all types of fish are unsafe where there is an advisory. Only limit your intake of the fish listed on the advisory.

Any health risks associated with eating fish from the fish advisory areas are based on long-term consumption and are not tied to eating fish occasionally. Eating fish remains an important part of a healthy diet. The American Heart Association recommends that individuals eat at least two fish or seafood meals weekly.

Can I recreate at these locations?

There is no health risk associated with mercury in the water for other uses of the waterways, such as swimming, boating, water skiing, and even recreational fishing.

How can I reduce the health risks from contaminated fish?

You can reduce the health risks from eating any type of fish by following these tips:

  • Do not eat more than the amount of fish recommended by the fish consumption advisories.
  • Eat fish from lakes and rivers that do not have advisories.
  • Eat smaller fish and smaller amounts of fish.
  • Eat different types of fish instead of just one type.
  • Enjoy fishing by catching then releasing the fish instead of eating them.
fish advisory

Wiper

Remember: You cannot remove mercury or arsenic by any special cleaning or cooking methods. This is because mercury and arsenic are stored in the meat of the fish and not the in the fat or skin.

 

 

 

 

Earth Day Every Day at DEQ

By Courtney Ehrlich

If you think about it, it’s pretty amazing that we set aside a day every year to honor the Earth and promote its protection. Did you know that over 193 countries participate in this celebration of our planet? According to the Earth Day Network, Earth Day is “the largest secular holiday in the world – celebrated by more than 1 billion people every year.”

Earth Day

The DEQ team at Liberty Park for its annual Earth Day service project

That wasn’t always the case.

In the spring of 1970, there weren’t any laws in place to protect the air we breathe or the water we drink. But on April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans demanded change. They came together in a “national teach-in” to demonstrate how much clean air, water, and land meant to them, and how critical it was to do a better job of protecting the environment. According to Gaylord Nelson, the U.S. Senator credited with spearheading the first Earth Day,

“The American people finally had a forum to express its (sic) concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air—and they did so with spectacular exuberance.”

By the end of the year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was born, and Congress began to pass federal regulations like the Clean Air Act.  Two years later, Congress passed the Clean Water Act, and two years after that, the Safe Drinking Water Act.  Federal, state, and local governments continue to pass laws to protect and improve the quality of our air, land, and water.

Mulch and more mulch. Click on image for larger view.

Every day, Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) employees work hard to implement those laws. But we also like to take part in service projects that help our community. Every year, we come together for an Earth Day service project to improve the quality of our local outdoor spaces. This year, DEQ volunteered at Liberty Park to spread mulch around the Rotary Park playground.

When we arrived, we saw a lot of mulch…about seven large truckloads piled high around the playground area. The Salt Lake City Parks Department told us to do as much as we could in the time allotted, since it was such a big project. Well, I don’t think they expected what happened next!

Being DEQ, we knew our hard-working, collaborative team could finish the job. And we did, in only 2 ½ hours! We shoveled mulch into wheelbarrows, put it in the playground, and smoothed out the piles so the surfaces were even. We set up a workflow, traded off tasks as needed, and checked our work afterward to make sure it met specs…just like we do in our regular jobs at DEQ.

Open spaces and parks like Liberty Park allow residents to trade the noise and hustle-bustle a city generates for a little getaway in a shady park full of recreation. The DEQ project at Liberty Park aimed to maintain cheerful, clean, and green places to enjoy while simultaneously boosting the mood, health, and well-being of Salt Lake City residents. We could tell that our Earth Day efforts were appreciated…parents and kids even came over and asked how they could help. It was a great way to build community, working side-by-side with the families who enjoy the park.

At DEQ, we value environmental protection, and we don’t just talk about it, we live it. Cleaning up Liberty Park is just one of the ways we show our love for this city and our planet!

Want to learn more about DEQ?  Check out our “Who We Are and What We Do” web page to learn more about the many ways we work every day to safeguard and improve Utah’s environment.


I was born and raised in the green, rolling hills of eastern Iowa’s dairyland and am brand new to beautiful Salt Lake City. I have spent the last few years diving into cultures in 24 countries and living in four of them. I recently returned from graduate school in Scotland where I earned the Environmental Science degree I use each day here at DEQ in the Air Toxics, Lead-Based Paint, and Asbestos (ATLAS) section. My work focuses on protecting human and environmental health by enforcing lead-based paint rules and regulations. I am fascinated by mountains, cultures, languages, and Great Danes. I spend my time doing hot yoga, hiking the Wasatch, and asking Alexa to play more Post Malone.

 

Recycling: This Earth Day, Let’s Get Back to Basics

By Sophia Nicholas, 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.

Plastic bags cause expensive and damaging delays in processing our waste streams.

Recycling is one of the most common sense practices to conserve resources and care for the Earth.

So this Earth Day—let’s get back to basics and take a deep dive on what’s going on with recycling these days and what you as an environmentally-conscious person should do to “recycle right.”

Did you know that most of the items you put in the recycling bin get sent to Asia to be processed into new material? Those water bottles get turned into fleece, cardboard into paper bags, and milk jugs into . . . new milk jugs.

A large majority of this material is processed in China.  Or, I should say, was.

You may have heard that China is no longer accepting the world’s waste as of January 2018. They were previously processing roughly half of the world’s plastic, metal, and paper recyclables. Their ban is part of an effort to clean up their environment and not become the home of “foreign garbage.” We applaud China’s strengthening of their environmental laws, policies, and procedures.

However, in the short term, the Chinese ban is causing recycling vendors and processors worldwide to search for new markets for some of the material China no longer wants. This includes lower-quality plastics and paper. China also doesn’t want “contamination”—which refers to non-recyclable items being mixed up with recyclable items, as well as dirty and unwashed recyclables.

recycling

Aluminum cans ready for recycling

Other countries are picking up some of the slack, but the Chinese ban is having an impact worldwide.

Thankfully recycling is a dynamic commodity market. It’s full of enterprising entrepreneurs and businesses who are finding solutions.

Salt Lake City, because of our size and market influence, has not yet seen a meaningful impact from the Chinese ban. Our processors are finding alternatives. We’ll continue to do everything in our power to recycle as much as we can, ensuring we have the most comprehensive and robust recycling operation possible.

But the changes in the recycling world should be a wake-up call to all of us.

Ultimately we need to return to the “Three R’s,” especially the first two—Reduce and Reuse. Then we have a modified third: “Recycle Right.”

Reduce our consumption of disposable items, reuse what we can, and then recycle, but in the right way.

recycling

Reusable water bottles cut down on plastic waste

First, using durable goods is always a better option than solely relying on the recycling bin.

This is certainly the case with plastic bags. Salt Lake City, like many other cities nationwide, recently announced that plastic bags can no longer be recycled in our blue curbside recycling containers. The reasons are simple—plastic bags and film (which includes grocery bags, produce bags, sandwich bags, cling film, air pockets, and the plastic bags used to bag recyclables) are a nuisance. They cause expensive and damaging delays in the processing of our waste stream.

So some quick tips on the first “two R’s”:

  • Use reusable. Whether that’s a water bottle, grocery bag, coffee cup, or straw—choose the durable option.
  • Say no to disposable dishes and cutlery.
  • Ask your favorite grocery stores to offer special recycling receptacles for their plastic bags if they don’t already. Learn more about plastic film and find a directory of stores which offer dedicated recycling at plasticfilmrecycling.org.
  • Opt for washable storage containers instead of plastic snack bags.
  • Bring your own to-go boxes rather than using disposable ones.
  • Shop in bulk and purposely buy products with less packaging.
recycling

Click on image for a larger view

Still—it’s difficult to remove plastic and packaging from our lives entirely. This is where we ask you to not be a practitioner of “aspirational recycling.”

Aspirational recycling is putting something in the recycling bin with a quick shrug, thinking that it will all end up in the right place. (I’m guilty too). Aspirational recycling can cause expensive delays and can contaminate entire bales of recycling.

I admit—it’s challenging to know what is and isn’t recyclable because recycling rules do change from time to time (case in point: plastic bags).

So in this day and age, it’s all about getting back to basics and “recycling right.”

  • Recycle the important stuff: paper, plastic, and metal.
  • Take the time to learn what your municipality, workplace, or multi-family property accepts in your recycling containers. It varies from location to location and changes occasionally.
  • If it’s not on the recycling list (here’s Salt Lake City’s), it doesn’t go in the recycling container.
  • Give your recycling a quick rinse to ensure it’s reasonably clean.
Most importantly, get back to basics by reducing and reusing. We as consumers have that in our power, whether it’s Earth Day or every day!

I am the Communications Manager for the Salt Lake City Sustainability Department, where I’ve had the pleasure of working for two years. I previously worked for the environmental non-profit HEAL Utah and am proud to now serve on their Board of Directors. I’m a Utah native and alumna of Olympus High School. I spent four years in Massachusetts at Wellesley College where I got my degree in political science and got a taste for travel during my study abroad. I couldn’t wait to come back, however, and have enjoyed working to protect our environment here in Utah ever since. In my spare time you can find me mountain biking, skiing, gardening, being the steady first mate on river trips, and getting involved in too many house projects with my partner Paul.

 

Answers to Your Questions about Greenhouse Gas, Tier 3 Vehicle Standards

By Glade Sowards

emission standardsOn April 2, 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its intention to revise the model year (MY) 2022-2025 light-duty vehicle GHG standards. Division of Air Quality (DAQ) staff received questions from the public about how this action might affect air quality in Utah and state efforts to meet federal air-quality standards in nonattainment areas.

While the announcement may limit progress in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, DAQ cannot make a comprehensive determination on the potential impacts of the EPA’s announcement on the emissions that contribute to Utah’s winter and summer air-quality challenges until revised standards are finalized and DAQ’s emissions models are updated to reflect these revisions.

What are the standards in question?

In 2012, EPA established the second phase of light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) standards covering MY 2017-2025. Like the Phase 1 standards (which covered MY 2012-2016 vehicles), the Phase 2 standards were established in parallel with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, since vehicle GHG emissions largely correspond with fuel consumption. The Phase 2 GHG/CAFE standards are shown in Table 1 below, with the years affected by EPA’s April 2, 2018, action shaded in blue.

Table 1 – Projected 2017-2025 Fleet-Wide CO2 and Fuel Economy Compliance Levels

Emission standards

As part of the Phase 2 rulemaking, EPA conducted a Midterm Evaluation (MTE) of the standards for MY 2022-2025 to ensure that market conditions and technological developments remain conducive to achieving the GHG targets for those years. On January 12, 2017, former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy completed the required MTE by signing a final determination to maintain the proposed GHG standards for MY 2022-2025.

On March 15, 2017, newly-appointed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced his intent to reconsider former Administrator McCarthy’s final determination and make a new final determination by no later than April 1, 2018. The new final determination, signed on April 2, 2018, found that the MY 2022-2025 standards are “not appropriate” and should be revised.

Any revisions to the standards will require new rulemaking and public comment.

Does this impact Tier 3 vehicle standards?

While the Phase 2 GHG standards cover the same MY 2017-2025 time period as the Tier 3 vehicle standards, they are, in fact, separate standards with different aims. The GHG standards address carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, with targets expressed in grams/mile. These targets coincide with CAFE fuel economy requirements, which are expressed in miles per gallon (mpg).

By contrast, the Tier 3 vehicle standards are aimed at reducing non-GHG emissions, such as direct particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and nonmethane organic gas (NMOG), pollutants that contribute to particulate, ozone, and other air-quality problems. The Tier 3 vehicle standards, like the GHG standards, establish emission limits for these pollutants in grams/mile. The Tier 3 standards, shown in Table 2 below, are between 70 and 80 percent cleaner than the Tier 2 standards that came before them.

Table 2 – Tier 3 Certification Bin Standards (FTP; 150,000 miles)

Emission standards

Fuel consumption typically increases with vehicle size, so GHG emissions tend to be higher for larger vehicles like trucks and SUVs. However, due to the tremendous strides made in vehicle emission-control equipment over the past 50 years, emissions of non-GHG pollutants, such as direct PM, NOx, and NMOG, have become somewhat decoupled from fuel economy, to the extent that even larger SUVs and trucks are capable of meeting the stringent emissions limits established under Tier 3.

What is the time frame for revising the standards?

To revise the MY 2022-2025 GHG standards, the EPA will need to begin a formal rulemaking process. EPA has indicated that it will, in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “… initiate a notice and comment rulemaking in a forthcoming Federal Register notice to further consider appropriate standards for model year 2022-2025 light-duty vehicles, as appropriate.” This process will likely take over a year or more to complete.

 

How will changes to the light-duty vehicle GHG standards impact Utah’s air quality?

Because the Tier 3 standards are independent of the GHG standards, vehicles sold under the revised GHG and CAFE targets would still be subject to the pollutant emission limits established under Tier 3. Specifically, manufacturers would still be required to meet both the 30 mg/mile fleet average requirement for combined NMOG and NOx emissions and the 3 mg/mile per vehicle requirement for PM emissions — pollutants that contribute to Utah’s wintertime particulate and summertime ozone challenges.

DAQ cannot estimate the ultimate impact of EPA revising the MY 2022-2025 GHG standards until the revisions are made public and finalized by EPA and the models DAQ scientists use to evaluate vehicle emissions are updated to reflect these revisions. Regardless, DEQ remains committed to protecting and improving Utah’s air quality and will continue its ongoing efforts to address Utah’s air-quality challenges.

Want to know more? Visit the EPA site for more information on the MTE process and EPA’s April 2, 2018, announcement.

 

Glade Sowards

I am an environmental scientist in the Division of Air Quality Mobile Source and Transportation Section. I have a B.A. in Economics and Environmental Studies from Grinnell College and an M.S. in Forestry from Michigan Technological University. I worked at the Utah Energy Office for seven years before coming to work at DAQ. I enjoy playing music, road trips, camping, pack rafting, and hiking with my wife, Elizabeth, and our dog, Whiskey.

Recapping the 2017-18 Inversion Season

 

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.”

-Hal Borland

By Jared Mendenhall

Click image for a lager view.

At the end of March, spring took its turn at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Along with the warmer weather, budding trees and blooming flowers, DEQ’s Division of Air Quality declared an end to the 2017-18 inversion season and stopped issuing its Action Forecasts for PM2.5 pollution. Rest assured, the Action Forecasts will return in Nov., along with colder weather.

What are Action Forecasts?

The Division of Air Quality issues two types of forecasts every day during the winter. The first, Action Forecasts, notify the public of the actions needed to help combat growing pollution levels. Designed to be a proactive step, these forecasts make residents aware of worsening air quality.

During Voluntary Action, people are asked to take steps to reduce pollution before it gets worse. Some suggested actions include not burning solid fuel and using TravelWise strategies to help reduce automobile emissions.

During Mandatory Action, the air quality has deteriorated to the point that restrictions on solid fuel burning go into effect. The public is asked to reduce vehicle travel when possible by using TravelWise strategies and taking public transit.

The second type of forecast is the Health Forecast. Health Forecasts warn people of how the highest pollution level of the day will affect their health. These are the popular green, yellow, orange or red rating based on how much PM2.5 pollution is currently in the air.

How bad was the air this winter?

Taking a look back on the last four months, Utah’s air quality was a mix of good and bad.

First the bad. By mid-December, a high pressure system settled in over Northern Utah. This locked cold air on the valley floors and produced the dreaded thermal inversion.

Normally, air temperatures decrease at a rate of 3.5°F for every 1,000 feet up into the atmosphere. Under these conditions, the air mixes and spreads around pollutants.

During an inversion, temperatures rise with increasing altitude. The warm inversion layer then acts as a cap and stops atmospheric mixing. The corresponding stable air column keeps pollutants down near the ground. Residents of the valleys are then exposed to more and more pollutants as the inversion continues and emissions remained stuck near the ground.

During December’s inversion, the Salt Lake Valley had four days of Voluntary Action and 18 days of Mandatory Action. During this time, there were also three days were the region exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) standard for PM2.5 pollution.

January was a little easier on the lungs, with only nine Voluntary Action days and nine Mandatory Action days. By late January, temperatures were unseasonably warm. This trend carried all the way through February. The lack of snow and mild temperatures kept any substantial inversion from building up. Once the monsoonal flow started in late February and early March, regular rain and snow storms mixed out any pollution that started to build up.

Salt Lake City Inversion 2017

During December 2017, the valleys of Northern Utah experienced a prolonged inversion event.

Is Utah’s air getting better?

Utah’s air quality is getting better. There has been, however, an influx of transplants moving to the Beehive State. This is a trend that will continue for the next 30 years, according to most experts. Along with this migration comes more cars and more emissions. So, even though Utah has seen significant reductions in per-capita emissions, the growing population will continue to stress our airshed.

Action and Health Forecasts for ozone will begin in late spring. Follow the forecast for ozone pollution at air.utah.gov or download the free UtahAir app for mobile devices.

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

Utah DEQ Unveils Website Redesign

By DEQ Web Team (part of the Communication Team)

In 2016, the DEQ Web Team embarked on a website redesign that is an integral part of the department-wide rebranding effort. This rebranding initiative made DEQ more accessible and relevant to our constituents, bringing to the forefront our mission, vision, and values. On March 23, 2018, the team successfully completed the first phase in a series of improvements to the DEQ website.

Improved Experience

Legacy look and feel from old DEQ website design.

Phase 1 focused on improving basic user experience across a variety of platforms. The site responds to screen size so it can display more appropriately across different devices, like desktops, tablets, or phones. A “Settings” panel offers a high-contrast view of the site. Search results are more relevant. Menus are improved and are more customized to specific content sections. “Behind the scenes,” code has been cleaned and condensed, making the site leaner. These improvements mean content is easier to find while delivery is faster and more efficient.

Hybrid Content (Legacy content waiting for conversion)

Phase 1 unveiled a hybrid site that mingles a new refresh look and feel with legacy content. You will notice that much of the site content sports a new design with more extensive and specific menu options. Other content, while greatly improved, still has our legacy design. Throughout the remainder of 2018, the Web Team will continue updating legacy content and converting it to the refresh design.

Navigating the Site

New DEQ site design.

The site search bar is the most efficient way to find content on our site, but some prefer using the menus. The new site caters to both.

Users will find the familiar “hamburger” menu in the top left corner of the site. It contains broad, category specific topics. As users navigate into the site, they will find more specific menus to the left of the content. These menus are organized by section topic. The more specific a menu is to the current content, the higher it will reside in the left column. For example (in the left column) you might have a menu about CERCLA programs (very specific) followed underneath by a division menu (less specific), then a general sitewide menu (not specific), and finally a tag cloud at the bottom.

Navigate by Tags or Categories

Our updated content is tagged with search terms and categories. Researchers should find it easy to locate relevant content, regardless of where it resides on the site, by clicking links within the Tag Cloud area. The Tag Cloud is found beneath the left-side menus.

Categories are similar to search term tags, but more generalized. For example, one might be a broad topic like a specific division. Category links are found at the bottom of the content area.

Division Branding

The new design makes it obvious which DEQ division owns a particular post. Users will find division branding and division-specific navigation tied to individual posts. The left navigation will highlight which post the user is viewing. These “road signs” will help users understand where they are in relation to the rest of the site and will guide them through their research.

Brief History

Although this redesign is officially part of the 2016 rebranding campaign, precursors to Phase 1 began in 2015. At the time, DEQ was receiving complaints from constituents that its online resources were difficult to find and navigate. DEQ responded by working with each of its divisions on a massive sitewide audit. The goal of the audit was to improve efficiency by reducing redundancy and by updating content.

In 2016, DEQ went through the rebranding campaign to help constituents understand better the responsibilities of, and services offered by, its divisions. As part of this campaign, DEQ resolved to better its online presence by improving:

  • The efficiency and speed that online content is published or updated
  • Site navigation
  • Division identity and ease of contact
  • Search results relevance
  • Mobile device support and bandwidth optimization
  • Accessibility support
  • Content accuracy

The DEQ Communication Office Web Team has been working hard to meet these goals. Sitewide, the online content has been cleaned and condensed. Content is leaner, while delivery is faster and more efficient.

In addition to the sitewide audit and content improvement, the Web Team has been converting posts to the new design. More than 25 percent of the content has been converted. Already, this move has resulted in a more efficient publishing process. The Web Team is more responsive and agile as a result.

After March, DEQ will continue making improvements to the site with phased releases. While some of the content will retain its “legacy” look and feel throughout 2018, site visitors will notice improved:

  • Navigation
  • Search Results
  • Mobile support
There is still much to improve, but the project has created quality and positive momentum. It is off to a great start.

Our web team consists of an elite group of communication specialists. They are: Terry Davis, Jodie Swanson, and D’yani Wood. If you have an online problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire … The DEQ Web Team.

Terry has been assisting various State of Utah organizations with their online presence since last century. He joined the DEQ team late in 2015. He doesn’t, however, spend all of his time pushing a mouse around. He enjoys the variety of opportunities found in Utah for hunting, hiking, camping, and shooting. He has been a volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America for nearly 7 years, having survived 60 nights of campouts (sometimes in deep snow and subzero weather). Although old and decrepit, he enjoys practicing MMA and finds it refreshingly therapeutic to hit friends and family in the face with big padded gloves.

Jodie has worked with the Office of Planning and Public Affairs for the past 20 years, most recently as a web specialist.   When she is not working, she loves to get outside and enjoy the sunshine with her family and two dogs.

D’yani, a native Idahoan, has been working at DEQ for a few years now, formerly in the Division of Drinking Water. She enjoys spreading the good word about her favorite online organization tools, tips, and tricks to anyone who asks. At home, she has three cats and one husband. She and her husband enjoy playing video games together and explaining to people that video games are an art form.