Utah DEQ News

ULend Helps Improve Utah Air Through Applied Technology

By Jared Mendenhall

ULend provides Uinta Basin oil and gas producers with access to an infrared camera to check for VOC leaks.

ULend provides Uinta Basin oil and gas producers with access to an infrared camera to check for VOC leaks.

The Uinta Basin drew little interest from European settlers when they reached the Great Basin. In fact, the Deseret News reported that the basin was a “vast contiguity of waste…valueless excepting for nomadic purposes, hunting grounds for Indians and to hold the world together.”

This all changed in 1948 when oil was discovered in the basin. Since then, the economy of the area has been increasingly tied to the boom-and-bust cycle of the oil industry. Along with the good jobs and business opportunities in the oil fields there was an environmental snag—ozone.

Ozone is formed when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) interact with sunlight. In the Uinta Basin, the source of these VOCs is primarily from emissions produced during oil and gas extraction.

“Ozone is a powerful oxidant that can impact the tissue in the lungs. It causes the tissue to constrict, traps air in the lungs, and makes it hard to breathe,” explains Jordan Mathis, Health Director for TriCounty Health Department.

In 2016, The Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) conducted a study to better understand the sources of VOCs in the basin. Using an infrared (IR) camera, DAQ checked for leaks in oil and gas tanks. This study showed that almost 40 percent of the more than 400 well pads visited had some type of VOC leak.

Based on DAQ’s findings, the 2017 Utah Legislature set aside $200,000 to fund the ULend program. ULend offers small-to-medium sized oil and gas producers with access to an IR camera at no cost. The camera is used to check for leaks at well pads—part of an industry tactic known as leak detection and repair (LDAR).

“We use Infrared cameras to determine if we have leaks—where the hydrocarbons we would normally recovery and sell are leaking out into the atmosphere,” says Randy Hughes with XTO Energy Inc., a company specializing in the drilling and production of oil and natural gas. “Part of that, too, is just to be friendly to the environment. That’s a big part of it too. The less stuff that we have leaking out in to the atmosphere, the better it is for the environment. So, it’s kind of a two-fold process.”

Fugitive emissions from oil and gas producers aren’t just an environmental problem. Leaks at well sites also create hazardous conditions for the workers. When operators incorporate an LDAR program, including the use of IR cameras, they are able frequently survey their facilities, identify safety and health issues, and repair the problems quickly.

“Using an IR camera, you will probably identify some trends. Even if you only survey for a week or two weeks,” says Doug Jordan with Newfield Exploration, a petroleum, natural gas, and natural gas liquids exploration and production company organized headquartered in Houston, TX. “You will be able to identify either major equipment that is prone to leaks or specific components, such as connectors. Then you can take that information back to your pumpers. When they’re out at their sites doing AVO, they can spend some extra time at those areas where you found the leaks.”

It’s difficult, however, for some small operators to justify the cost of an LDAR program. The equipment is expensive; an IR camera can run $100,00. ULend allows companies to forego the purchase of an IR camera.

“A huge benefit of the ULend program is the front-end cost. The cameras cost $85,000-$125,000, depending on the make/model type that you get,” says Hughes. “That’s a huge front-end cost for the little guy to get into.”

Operators using the borrowed cameras will be asked to share a minimal amount of the data they collect — basic facility information, date of site visit, specific leak location, how the leak was addressed, and associated costs — with DAQ. These data will be used solely for research purposes, not compliance actions.

The ULend program is a great example of what can be accomplished when industry and government work together. DAQ has partnered with Utah State University, Bingham Research Center, and TriCounty Health for this project, with additional support from the Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR).

To learn more about ULend or to check out the camera, visit: ulend.utah.gov.

Since the discovery of oil in 1948, the Uinta Basin has become increasingly tied to oil and gas production.


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


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

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The public comment period for the EnergySolutions exemption request has been extended to October 22, 2018. 

The director of the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control received a request from HEAL Utah to extend the comment period. The director determined that the request for the extension has merit and extended the comment period for an additional 13 days.

The public comment period began  September 6, 2018, in response to a request by EnergySolutions for an exemption from state rules that require 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 instructed the director of the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control to solicit public comment on this request. The original 30-day public comment period beginning September 6, 2018, was extended by the director. The comment period now ends on October 22, 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 22, 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 22, 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

Snow Blower Exchange Helps You Clean Your Driveway and Our Air

By Courtney Ehrlich

snowblower exchangeWinter inversions in Utah sometimes seem to last so long we start to think they will never end. Views of the Wasatch become foggy, covered in a layer of air pollution. Our views of mountain ranges and downtown skyscrapers are impeded, and the distance we can see is dramatically reduced. Inversion days add up one after another, and we anxiously await a storm – not only to bring fresh powder to the ski resorts but also to bring us fresh air. We notice the air is the cleanest after a snowstorm. So how can we do our part to keep it that way?

Aside from the arrival of cleaner air, there is something else that happens after a snowfall. Driveways and sidewalks need to be dug out – so we dig out the snow blowers. Unfortunately, that begins the build-up of air pollutants and gives the next inversion a head start. In fact, snow blowers are relatively large contributors of emissions. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) estimates operating a typical 4-stroke gasoline snow blower for one hour emits as much pollution as driving a car 339 miles! Converting your dirty, gas-powered snow blower to a clean, electric machine is one way you to help keep clean air clean.

DEQ, Rocky Mountain Power, and UCAIR are partnering for the first-annual 2018 Electric Snow Blower Exchange. The Exchange will offer 432 electric snow blowers to be sold at a discounted price to encourage the use of clean-emissions snow blowers during the inversion season.

The Exchange encourages participants to turn in their existing gas-powered machines in exchange for an electric snow blower but is also open to anyone who does not have a gas-powered snow blower to scrap. The difference is the purchase point.

The Greenworks 80-Volt Cordless Electric Snow Blower with battery and 4-year warranty retailing at $299 will be available for discounted purchase.

  • $69 if the participant chooses to turn in a gas-powered snow blower to scrap
  • $169 if the participant does not have a gas-powered snow blower to scrap (plus taxes and fees)

Those wishing to participate can register online at www.ucair.org between October 1 and October 11, 2018. Participants will be randomly selected from the pool of registrations and will be notified October 15-22, 2018. Those selected will need to pay in advance and choose a 15-minute time slot to exchange.

To purchase a discounted snow blower, participants must agree to and meet the following criteria:

  • Must be pre-registered and pre-paid using the online registration and payment portal
  • Must agree to the terms and conditions as part of the registration process
  • Must be a Utah resident and live within a PM2.5 or Ozone non-attainment area (Box Elder, Cache, Weber, Davis, Salt Lake, Tooele, Utah, Duchesne, Uintah counties)
  • Only one electric snow blower per household may be purchased at the event
  • Only one gasoline-powered snow blower can be exchanged for an additional discount toward the purchase of an electric snow blower and must be in operable condition with the oil and gas removed
  • Only dry, gasoline-powered snow blowers will be accepted as waste at this event. No other waste will be allowed
  • Must be present at the event in order to purchase the offered electric blower at the discounted price
  • DEQ, Rocky Mountain Power, UCAIR, and Lowe’s will not refund the purchase of any electric snow blower purchased at the event. The purchaser is responsible for registering the snow blower for a 4-year warranty included with purchase
  • Only online payments will be accepted for payment. No cash or checks will be accepted

This program is funded by DEQ’s Clean Air Fund, Rocky Mountain Power, and UCAIR. The Clean Air Fund is made up of voluntary contributions from taxpayers like you. If you’d like to see this program continue for years to come, consider a donation on your income tax forms.

After switching to an electric snow blower, you will be able to breathe a little easier about firing up a snow blower right after a snow storm!

Monday, October 1, is the opening day of registration! Visit the UCAIR website between Oct 1-11,2018, to register for your chance to purchase an electric snow blower at a deep discount. We hope to see you there!

Some may say I’m a Utah-transplant. I am originally from the Midwest where I grew up in a self-sustaining family with strong environmental values. Since then, I have found myself all over the map understanding how people all around the world develop and sustain relationships with our planet. I have spent the last few years diving into cultures in 24 countries and living in four of them. Before moving to Utah this past January, I became a graduate of the University of Dundee in Scotland where I completed a postgraduate program in Sustainability and Climate Change. These days, though, you’ll find me on a mountain bike or in a tent somewhere in the mountains.   


Panguitch Lake Closed Due to High Toxin Levels

Panguitch Lake

Panguitch Lake northeast shore, September 13, 2018

The Southwestern Utah Health Department has issued a Danger Advisory/Closure for Panguitch Lake based on extremely high toxin levels in the lake from an ongoing cyanobacteria bloom. Closure signs will be posted today.

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) contacted livestock operators in the area to recommend they prevent their cattle from drinking water from the reservoir and downstream sources. UDAF advises producers to find alternative water sources until conditions improve.

Toxin test results from the Utah Public Health Lab (UPHL) for samples collected on September 12, 2018, show microcystin levels after 5000x dilution that were 18.5 times higher than the recreation health-based threshold for a Danger Advisory. Further dilutions by the lab will be necessary to quantify microcystin concentrations, and these levels could go even higher after these dilutions.

DWQ also collected samples from Panguitch Creek at the White Bridge Campground below Panguitch Lake on September 18, 2018. Toxin test results were non-detect for anatoxin and >5 µg/L for microcystins. Further dilutions by the lab will be necessary to quantify microcystin concentrations, and the preliminary values could go even higher after these dilutions.

A Danger Advisory indicates a high relative probability of acute health risk, cell count densities greater than 10,000,000 cells/ml, microcystins levels greater than 2,000 µg/L, cylindrospermopsin levels greater than 8 µg/L, or anatoxin-a levels greater than 90 µg/L. 

Panguitch Lake

Northeast shore on September 13, 2018

Toxin Test Results

Panguitch Lake ( Utah Public Health Lab (UPHL)

  • Anatoxin-a: <0.1 micrograms per liter (µg/L)
  • Microcystin: 37,000 µg/L

White Bridge Campground below Panguitch Lake (Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) lab)

  • Anatoxin-a: <0.1 µg/L
  • Microcystin: >5 µg/L

The Division of Water Quality (DWQ) and UDAF is visiting Panguitch Lake today, September 24, 2018, to collect further samples. Visit DEQ’s harmful algal bloom (HAB) pages for more information on HABs and HABs advisories across the state.

Southwestern Utah Health Department News Release

News Release, September 24, 2018

Toxic Algae Detected in Panguitch Lake

PANGUITCH,UT – The Southwest Utah Public Health Department (SWUPHD) is issuing a “danger” advisory for Panguitch Lake due to hazardous levels of toxic algae. People and animals should keep out of the water until further notice. Warning signs are being posted at the lake and health officials will continue to sample and monitor the water there.

Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), made of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), can occur in lakes and reservoirs and may contain toxins that are a health hazard to humans and animals.

The most common symptoms of exposure to HABs include gastrointestinal illness and skin irritation. Some toxins can cause liver, respiratory, or neurological problems.

HABs may look like pea soup, green or blue paint, or a scum layer floating on the surface.
If you’ve been exposed to a HAB, contact the Utah Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222. HABs can be reported to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality at 801-536-4123.

Make Your Voice Heard and Your Comments Count

By DEQ Communications Office

We understand people’s frustration when they take the time to submit a written or verbal public comment on a regulatory proposal and at the end of the process, the final rule or regulation doesn’t seem to reflect their comment. They walk away with a feeling their comment doesn’t really matter.

DEQ’s Boards welcome public participation in meetings and public comments on issues before the board. Pictured: Waste Management and Radiation Control Board

That’s not entirely true. Public participation is essential to developing more effective rules and regulations. The Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) depends on it. When drafting a rule or permit, DEQ scientists do their best to base it on science and the law. They reach out to experts, but they also count on the public and others to identify information gaps and offer solutions to reach a better outcome: protective, reasonable regulations and permits without unintended consequences.

DEQ’s five divisions rely on their governing boards to enact rules and regulations based on staff recommendations. They also solicit input on plans and permits to ensure they are protective of Utah’s air, land, and water. Below is a sampling of some of the permits, plans, and requests currently out for public comment:

Keys to Effective Public Comments

Public Comments

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Good comments provide new information the agency hasn’t considered or offer possible solutions to the problem. Comments that offer opinions or raise questions unrelated to the proposed rule or permit aren’t very helpful.

Point out unintended consequences

Public comments have proven to make a difference during rulemaking. For example, Division of Air Quality (DAQ) staff recommended exemptions to a proposed solvent rule based on public comments that pointed out how lowering the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) content requirements in solvents without including exclusions for high vapor-pressure solvents would be counter to the proposed rule’s purpose of using environmentally friendly solvents.

Show up with technical expertise

Commenters are able often able to provide expert information that helps the agency refine rules.

Point to a solution, rather than just the problem

While it’s helpful to explain why a rule or permit doesn’t work, it’s even better to suggest alternatives and substitute language for the requested change.

Common Comment Mistakes

Use comments as votes

The public comment process is not a vote – one well-supported comment is often more informative than a hundred emails or form letters that raise the same point. DEQ doesn’t respond to these formulaic comments but will note it received the same comment multiple times.

Make comments that are NOT specific to the rulemaking proposal

Read and understand the proposal you are commenting on. For example, if the proposed regulation regards reductions of VOCs in wood furniture coatings, but the comment is about banning wood smoke, that comment isn’t relevant to the issue at hand and staff won’t respond to it.

public comments

DEQ appreciates public participation on issues that concern residents.

Provide comments beyond the authority of the agency

You may have a great suggestion for improving Utah’s air or water, but it may require Legislative or Governor approval. Understanding the extent and limits of DEQ’s regulatory authority can ensure your comments are given due consideration.

Ask questions on a proposed rule rather than offering comments

Questions are welcomed, but they aren’t considered comments. If you have a question, give the contact person a call. DEQ includes contact information for the staff scientist overseeing the rule, permit, and public comment in its public notices. Often getting clarification on a question will help you formulate a better comment.

Public participation matters! DEQ welcomes and encourages it. We are committed to using the public notice and comment process to improve the decisions we make. If you have additional questions about the public notice and comment process for a specific proposal, please contact us at (800) 458-0145, or visit our public notice webpage. Some of our divisions, like Waste Management and Radiation Control, have online forms that let you sign up for email alerts on public notices and hearings. Visit our webpage “Making Effective Public Comments to DEQ” for answers to frequently asked questions and additional information on the public comment process.


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

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