Utah DEQ News

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.

Air Quality: My Top Ten List for Better Air

air quality

Click for larger view.

By Donna Kemp Spangler

Utah’s winter chill is creeping upon us, and with that comes the infamous inversions, that for perhaps 10 terrible days of the year have downright frightful and unhealthy air quality.

We know we can’t completely prevent them. It is partly an act of nature. Under the right atmospheric conditions, our mountain-valley topography acts like a bowl, keeping cold air in the valleys. The snow-covered valley floors reflect rather than absorb the heat from the sun. Fog exacerbates the problem, facilitating chemical reactions from the other part we can control – vehicles, wood burning, and industrial emissions – that create even more particles and higher pollutant concentrations. The longer the inversion lasts, the higher the levels of pollution trapped under it. The warm inversion air layer is usually displaced by a strong storm system which restores air quality to healthy levels.

But that doesn’t mean we are completely helpless. We do know our actions can make a difference. Every time we start our car, idle, light a fire, turn up the heat, it all contributes to a relentless long-lasting chain of polluting events.

So just like we prepare for winter by winterizing our homes, consider the following 10 things as a “to-do” list of how to make our air quality better this winter:

  • Drive your newest car, and get it tuned. A well-tuned vehicle runs more efficiently and captures much of the exhaust that escapes the tailpipe and pollutes the air.
  • Don’t burn wood. You can replace that old wood-burning stove with a more efficient, cleaner electric or natural gas. And remember, Utah regulations prohibit you from lighting a wood stove or fireplace on inversion days – with the exception of those who use it as their sole source of heat.
  • Don’t idle your car; warm your vehicle by driving it.
  • Work a flexible schedule—commute during non-peak driving times. If you can, work with your boss and telecommute on days when the inversion is building.
  • Know before you go. If you have to drive to work, take your lunch; plan to run all your errands at once.
  • Buy a transit pass. Join a carpool group.
  • Conserve energy. Buy Energy Star products or energy efficient products.
  • Buy less toxic or nontoxic materials. DEQ’s consumer products rule establishes Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) limits in personal care, household and auto products. Lower VOCs in these products would reduce about 4,000 tons per year.
  • Use a snow shovel rather than a snow blower. If you do use a snow blower, switch out your old gas can for an EPA-approved version.
  • Check Department of Environmental Quality’s air quality forecast before you leave. Get the UtahAir app on your phone at your app store.
For more tips on what you can do to make a difference, visit Utah Clean Air Partnership, or UCAIR, or comment on this blog and tell us what’s on your to-do list to help improve Utah’s air.

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 deq.utah.gov/news. You can follow me on Twitter @deqdonna

Wood-Burning Restrictions Go into Effect November 1, 2018

Wood-burning infographic. Click to enlarge.

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) reminds residents that wood-burning restrictions go into effect November 1, 2018, and urges Utahns to use online and mobile tools to monitor daily PM2.5 levels.

The fines for burning wood or other solid fuel devices on mandatory action days have increased to $150 for the first violation of the burning restrictions, and additional violations will be subject to increased penalties.  The penalties reflect the need to address the levels of air pollution that wood stoves contribute in light of the reclassification of Wasatch Front counties as “Serious” non-attainment areas for fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

Wood-burning restrictions help reduce hard-to-see particle pollution that builds up during winter inversion periods. Restrictions are implemented as a proactive measure when fine particle matter (PM 2.5) has the potential to reach unhealthy levels from emission sources such as vehicles and wood- and coal-burning fireplaces or stoves.

Salt Lake County has implemented mandatory burn restrictions on days when DAQ  calls for voluntary action.

The Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR) and DEQ launched the Wood Stove Conversion Assistance Program to encourage residents in nonattainment areas to convert their fireplace or wood stove to natural gas or propane. DEQ will award rebates of up to $3,800 to qualified individuals. Residents can visit UCAIR to sign up for an application for Cache County or join the wait list for Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Tooele, and Box Elder counties.

UtahAir App

Updated UtahAir App

Click image for a detailed look at the updated UtahAir app.

The DAQ air-quality alert system, developed with input from the public, provides information on the complex health implications and related activity restrictions triggered by certain air pollution levels. A phone app–UtahAir–uses DAQ’s air quality alert system. The free App is available for Android and iOS users. App users will receive action alerts and three-day forecasts to help plan the best times to exercise outdoors or when to consolidate trips based on current conditions.

“The UtahAir app is our most popular tool because Utahns can quickly click on the information they need at anytime and anywhere,” said Bryce Bird, director of DAQ. “This is important information people can access in order to make daily decisions that will improve air quality during the upcoming winter inversion season.”

Air-Quality Alert System

DAQ’s alert system consists of two parts:

Action Alerts

Three basic symbols indicate unrestricted, voluntary and mandatory actions.

  • Unrestricted Action (circle): Wood- and coal-burning stoves or fireplaces may be used but in a proper manner to reduce smoke emissions.
  • Voluntary Action (inverted triangle): Residents are asked, on a voluntary basis, to not use wood and coal burning stoves or fireplaces and reduce vehicle use by consolidating trips. Industry should optimize operating conditions to minimize air-pollution emissions.
  • Mandatory Action (X): Residents are prohibited from using wood- and coal-burning stoves or fireplaces and asked to reduce vehicle use by consolidating trips. Industry should optimize operating conditions to minimize air pollution emissions.

When mandatory restrictions are in place, the use of solid-fuel appliances may result in penalties ranging up to $299 per day. If members of the public observe violations of the burning restrictions, they should report them to DAQ by calling 801-536-4000 during business hours or by filling out a simple online form.


    Health Guidance

    The EPA’s national standard Air Quality Index (AQI) is divided into six, color-coded categories that correspond to different levels of pollution and related guidance for individuals with health concerns.

    The DAQ monitors air pollution hourly and provides a three-day “action forecast” on its web page to help residents plan ahead and adjust their activities during winter inversions to protect their health. More information on air quality and health is available at the Utah Department of Health’s Asthma Program.

    Additional suggestions on ways to reduce personal emissions during winter inversions are available in DAQ’s Inversion Toolkit.

    New Funding Helps Researchers in Quest for Air Quality Solutions

    By Lexie Wilson

    AiR2 is a meeting of researchers and scientists to discuss Utah’s air quality.

    This month, I had the unique opportunity to meet with some of Utah’s top air quality researchers at the first-annual Air Quality Research Roadmap (AiR2). AiR2 is a meeting of researchers and scientists to discuss, network, and make progress on solutions to Utah’s air quality problems. These scientists are on the frontlines in the fight against air pollution. Our goal is to improve air quality. This is something the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) has been working on for quite a while.

    This meeting came about because of efforts from Utah’s law makers. Before 2018, state-funded research on air quality at Utah’s universities and colleges was typically funded through one-time appropriations. Last year, the Utah Legislature approved $500,000 in ongoing funding for this type of research. This legislative funding comes with a mandate that the research leads to a benefit for Utah and its residents. Our focus is on science for solutions.

    Researchers have played a key role in understanding Utah’s unique air pollution. Thanks to their work, we now know more. Scientists at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah have added to our knowledge on the impacts of wood smoke. Insights into Uinta Basin ozone pollution came from projects at Utah State University. Other Utah researchers have expanded our understanding of air exchanges across the Great Salt Lake and down Wasatch Front Canyons. These are just a few examples of the work done by Utah’s research community.

    To facilitate discussion, DAQ drafted a list of research goals and priorities that staff presented at AiR2. Harnessing the broad knowledge base of the AiR2 participants, DAQ refined and improved its list of goals and priorities. The new list represents the kind of research topics that will make the most impact on understanding and improving air quality.

    Using the feedback from the research community, DAQ crafted a request for proposals (RFP). Shortly, DAQ will send out this RFP and researches can apply for those grants. Financing for the grants will come from the ongoing funds made available through the legislature. DAQ’s Planning, Permitting and Compliance sections comprise a diverse review panel that will select winning research proposals for the upcoming fiscal year.

    The event provided researchers with an opportunity to network and make progress on solutions to Utah’s air quality problems.

    Communication and support between researchers and regulators is vital in fighting air pollution. Figuring out what research topics will benefit our state is crucial to effective solutions.

    The daily choices a population makes have an impact on air quality. Increasing urban growth makes this impact even more pronounced. As public servants, the staff at DEQ is committed to the residents of Utah. We look for solutions to these real-world problems. Actively engaging researchers is a key step in finding fair, responsible solutions.

    The Division of Air Quality will send out the request for proposals on Nov. 1, 2018. DAQ will award $500,000 from the ongoing annual funding to 3-8 projects. For those who have questions about the RFP, contact Whitney Oswald at (801) 536-4468 or woswald@utah.gov.

     

    Lexie Wilson is an environmental scientist in the Technical Analysis section at UDAQ. A physics graduate from the University of Utah, Lexie’s zeal for scientific research and passion for environmental protection motivate her work..

    Board Denies EnergySolutions Request for Exemption for Depleted Uranium Munitions

    The Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Waste Management and Radiation Control Board denied EnergySolutions‘ request for an exemption to state regulations requiring a performance assessment prior to the disposal of depleted uranium (DU).

    DEQ Low-Level Radioactive Waste Manager Don Verbica explains staff recommendations on EnergySolutions’ request for an exemption from performance assessment requirements for the disposal of depleted uranium munitions at its Clive facility.

    While the board expressed confidence in the company’s ability to safely store low-level radioactive waste, it rejected its request to do so without a performance assessment. The vote was unanimous, with one board member absent and board member Vern Rogers of EnergySolutions recusing himself during voting.

    depleted uranium

    DEQ scientists expressed concerns about the tendency for DU penetrators to break down in the environment.

    EnergySolutions, a radioactive waste management company with facilities in Tooele County, Utah, asked to dispose of approximately 10,000 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 state rules, a performance assessment is required to demonstrate that performance standards will be met prior to disposal of more than one metric ton (total accumulation) of concentrated depleted uranium.

    If the exemption had been granted as requested, EnergySolutions would not have been required to complete the performance assessment.

    Staff from DEQ’s Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control made a lengthy presentation to the Board and answered questions. Concerns raised by staff included the geochemically unstable nature of DU metal, its reactivity in a moist, carbonate-rich environment such as at Clive, and its ability to react to form explosive substances. DEQ said it could not support the exemption without a specific DU metal performance assessment that demonstrated that there would be no undue hazards to public health and safety or the environment and that performance objectives would be met.

    SC&A environmental consultants stressed that Utah regulations require a performance assessment for the disposal of more than one metric ton of depleted uranium.

    Consultants from SC&A, an environmental and energy consulting firm, shared their analysis of data provided by EnergySolutions. SC&A stated that Utah’s regulation on the matter was clear: a performance assessment is required for disposal of more than one metric ton of depleted uranium. They also noted that the performance assessments cited by EnergySolutions were not site-specific for DU. Finally, they stated that EnergySolutions had not demonstrated that an exemption from this regulation would not result in undue hazards to public health.

    An EnergySolutions’ representative also addressed the board. He responded to DEQ’s presentation and countered estimates of the tonnage of DU munitions to be stored under the company’s request. He also refuted claims about groundwater contamination and other human-health risks.

     

    The Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control received more than 200 comments on EnergySolutions’ request. The comments unanimously opposed the request to take depleted uranium. Comments ranged from emotional pleas to technical responses.

    Board members listen to the presentations before voting.

    Tooele County is assumed to have 40 percent of the DU that EnergySolutions wanted to accept. The DU stored at the Tooele Army Depot is managed by the Army, which has strict protocols for the storage of munitions. The DU at the Depot is not exposed to weather, is stored as inventory ready for use by the military, and is not considered waste.

    The full public notice, correspondence, and supporting documents regarding EnergySolutions‘ request for an exemption are available on the DEQ Public Notices page. Presentations made by DEQ staff and SC&A during the October 25, 2018, board meeting can be found in the Board Minutes on DEQ’s webpage on the DU exemption request.

    Originally posted: October 25, 2018 at 5:54 pm
    Last updated: November 14, 2018 at 9:10 am
    Categories: Featured, News