Utah DEQ News

“Get Into The River Festival” Celebrates the Jordan River Parkway

By Soren Simonsen, 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.

Get Into the River

There’s plenty of fun to go around at the Get Into The River Festival.

The fifth annual Get Into The River Festival is in full swing on the Jordan River.

The Festival was launched five years ago as a way to raise awareness about the Jordan River and expand audiences of engaged outdoor recreation enthusiasts, conservationists, river advocates, and volunteers. The Get Into The River Festival brings together local governments, the community, and businesses to celebrate, discover, explore, recreate and restore the Jordan River Parkway corridor.

The Jordan River is a unique river in Utah. It is only 50 miles in length, originating from Utah Lake in Saratoga Springs and flowing northward to Farmington Bay at the Great Salt Lake in Davis County. It traverses three counties and 16 cities through the most urbanized area of Utah. An estimated one-fourth of the population of Utah lives within 10 minutes of the river.

Get Into the River

The Festival shows people the beauty of the Jordan River.

Industry, agriculture and community development have had a tremendous impact on the river over the past two centuries. Many of these impacts have impaired water quality, wildlife habitat, the health of the river, and its scenic beauty. As in many cities across the country, the greater Wasatch metro area is rediscovering and revitalizing this hidden gem.

The Blueprint Jordan River was created in 2010 as a broad community vision to improve the Jordan River Parkway corridor. The Jordan River Commission was formed in 2010 as a coordinating agency to support the implementation of the Blueprint. The Get Into The River Festival was launched by the Commission and other partners in 2014, and has expanded from a two-day event in its early years to a full month of activities.

Get Into the River

Taylorsville Fair

With the recent completion of the entire 45-mile Jordan River Parkway Trail in November 2017, several new events have been added this year that utilize the entire Jordan River Parkway Trail.

Recreation events include walking, cycling and paddling activities for all ages and abilities. Education and discovery events include nature walks, bird watching, citizen science and educational programs, often as part of larger community events. Conservation and restoration activities include numerous volunteer opportunities for invasive weed management, planting and seeding, and litter and trash collection on the trail and in the river.

This year’s festival also added several arts and cultural activities, including a children’s choir Beatles tribute in Riverton and a 9/11 memorial and children’s patriotic bike parade in West Valley City. RiverFest is back again this year, expanding and moving to a new location at Salt Lake City’s magnificent International Peace Gardens at Jordan River Park.

Get Into The River

Time to grab your rubber ducky and head to the Get Into the River Festival.

The 2018 festival runs through the month of September. The whole lineup of events and other information is available at the official Festival website GetIntoTheRiver.org.

Soren Simonsen

I am the Executive Director of the Jordan River Commission. The Commission is an inter-local agency working to implement the vision for the Jordan River Parkway.

Utah’s Air: Double-Punch of Ozone and Wildfires this Summer

By Donna Kemp Spangler

Utah's Air

Dollar Ridge Fire. Photo courtesy Utah Fire Info

Wildfires burning throughout the West have many people questioning whether this is the worst summer ever for air pollution. It’s not, but it has been worse than many other years, thanks to the double-punch of high ozone levels and wildfire smoke.

Summer heat is certainly a recipe for ozone, and the various air monitors across the valley registered high ozone levels on many days. Wildfire smoke also sends soot in the form of tiny particulate pollution wafting into the valley.

There’s no question that the wildfires have had an impact on Utah air. But the impact depends on where the fires are burning and the direction the wind is blowing. If wildland fires continue to be the norm, then the impact on air quality in Utah will vary from year to year depending on meteorological conditions.

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) monitors and records the federal ozone standard, set at 70 parts per billion (ppb) over an eight-hour period. But the ozone is only part of the overall impact during the summer. DAQ also monitors for particulate pollution of various sizes. The smaller the particle, the bigger the health risk because those microscopic particles get lodged in the lungs while breathing.

Utah's Air

Wildfires are mostly to blame for high levels of the particulate pollution (PM 2.5) we see during winter inversions. Fires burning in Utah have a direct impact on the local community air quality. This primary particulate matter is emitted directly from construction sites, wildfires, wood burning, gravel pits, agricultural activities, and dusty roads. Fires in California, Oregon, Idaho and elsewhere can have regional impacts. Montana got hit particularly hard last year from wildfires burning in those states.

I asked Kristy Weber, meteorologist for the Division of Air Quality, to do some research, and she found Utah County exceeded the federal standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air (ug/m3) during the month of July and August due to smoke from the Dollar Ridge Fire and others. Salt Lake Valley didn’t necessarily exceed the standard, but as you can see from the second chart, there were spikes associated with fires and fireworks that appear more dramatic compared to the 10-year average.

A couple of other observations Kristy noted:

  • July 4th fell on a Wednesday. There were bigger peaks noted on Thursday and Friday evenings, probably because more people were lighting off fireworks.
  • At the end of July, a period of easterly winds caused the Wasatch Front to be engulfed in smoke from the Dollar Ridge Fire near Strawberry Reservoir.
  • At the end of July and beginning of August, high particulate pollution was measured initially in southern Utah County, with spikes seen in the late night/early morning hours. This was a result of smoke from the Coal Hollow Fire from Spanish Fork Canyon/U.S. 6. This smoke eventually made its way to Salt Lake County and other parts of the Wasatch Front and Northeast Utah in the following days.
  • Towards the end of August, we had a series of disturbances along the Wasatch Front. Southwest winds would often precede the frontal passage, resulting in lower particulate-matter numbers, especially as showers and thunderstorms engulfed the area. Post-frontal passage would be accompanied by smoke-laden but cooler northwesterly winds. This happened a number of times, which is why there were such strong spikes/falls at the end of the month.
  • Of note, even though there were times during the day when monitored values were above EPA’s standard for PM2.5 in August, this is not reflected in the plots since the standard is based on a 24-hour average at a monitor for each day.

Summer is almost over, and the ozone and wildfire seasons are winding down. Our air quality took a bit of a beating this year, but we can hope for better conditions next summer and do our part to reduce our emissions and prevent wildfires.

There are times when the air looks smoggy due to diffused light; it doesn’t mean the air quality is unhealthy. That’s why it is important to follow the air-quality conditions on DEQ’s web page air.utah.gov. and on your smartphone by downloading the UtahAir app. We can’t control the weather, but we can control our actions and make smart choices for good air quality. Visit Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR)  for tips on how you can help improve our air.

Donna SpanglerI am the Communications Director for DEQ and a former reporter for the Deseret News. I am a frequent blog contributor. You can read my previous blog posts at deq.utah.gov/news. You can follow me on Twitter @deqdonna

Going Green at Work: Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference

By DEQ Communications Office

Going Green

Click for larger view

Although many of us make environmentally friendly choices at home, we don’t always stop to consider the many ways we could “go green” in the workplace. Since many of us spend a good portion of our day at work, those small changes can make a big difference. An added benefit: a green workplace is also a healthier and more productive place to work.

Bring a mug, refillable drink cup, or a reusable water bottle to work.

Bottled water leads to a whole lot of plastic in our waste stream. Fill up a reusable water bottle instead. Running late and need a cup of joe to start your day? All those drink cups add up. Don’t skip your latte or cocoa, bring a travel mug for your morning pick-me-up. And if you want to take a soda break, use a refillable drink cup for fountain drinks. Oh, and skip the straw. Keep an extra mug, cup, water bottle, and bowl in your car. If you get take-out, decline the plastic utensils and use ones you bring from home. Use the bowl as a to-go box for lunch leftovers to reduce the number of  Styrofoam containers going to the landfill.

Invest in reusable kitchen products.

Disposable plates, cups, and silverware are a staple of office get-togethers, but did you know that you can actually save money if you invest in inexpensive reusable dishware and cutlery?  Ceramic, glass, metal, and heavy-duty plastic are all good choices. A little soap and water and you’re ready to go for the next event. Bring water carafes and reusable cups to your meetings instead of a case of plastic water bottles. Attendees drink what they need (saving water) and many may even bring their own water bottles.

Set printers to use both sides of the paper.

One-sided copies as the default option on most printers. Conserving paper is easy if you set up your computer to print on both sides. See if you can get the office printer to automatically print on both sides as well. Better yet, avoid printing altogether by becoming a digital (paperless) office. Fifty percent of business waste is some form of paper. Offices in the U.S. use 12.1 trillion sheets of paper a year, and paper accounts for 25 percent of landfill waste and 33 percent of municipal waste. If you don’t really need to make a copy or print a document, don’t.

Turn off your computer at night.

Computers use a surprising amount of energy, even when they’re in standby mode. So turn your computer OFF when you leave the office. You may want to also ditch the screen saver — standby mode uses a lot of energy. Instead, set your computer to sleep or off mode when you’re away from your desk during the day. Consider using a Smartstrip — a combination power strip and energy-saving tool — to turn off your electronics when they’re not in use. Even small adjustments to your computer settings—such as lowering your screen brightness, reducing the number of tabs you have open, or even downsizing how many applications you use—can save electricity.

Turn off lights.

Countless kilowatt hours are wasted each year lighting empty rooms. Just like you do at home, get in the habit of turning off the lights when you leave the room. Consider putting a small label on light switches reminding others to do the same.


Help reduce pollution and your carbon footprint by telecommuting. Your car or truck emits the most emissions from cold starts. So skip the trip. Telecommuting even one day a week or when the air is bad can make a big difference in air quality. It’s an easy way for you and your company to go green.

Bring your own lunch in a reusable container.

If you’re not able to work from home,  you can still eliminate an unneeded cold start by bringing your lunch and eating in the break room. You’ll keep your leftovers from going to waste, pack healthier meals, and save money by not eating out. Best of all, you’ll have a chance to chat with your co-workers over lunch

Place recycle bins around the office.

You’ve done your part to reduce and reuse. But sometimes you have to recycle. Make it easy by keeping a recycle bin at your desk and setting up bins throughout the office. Want to be even more creative? Set up a compost bin in break rooms for compostable foods. Employees can take the compost home to “season” for use in their gardens or place them in their yard-waste cans.

Think beyond the Three R’s.

We all know the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. But there are other “R’s” that can help us make our workplace a little greener. Repair rather than replace. Refrain rather than acquire. And rethink…because while it may seem easier in the short run to throw something away or buy something new if we rethink our choices, we may discover other ways to “go green.” And that’s good news for us, our workplace, and our planet.

We’d love to hear how you “go green” at your workplace. Please share your ideas with us in the comment section, and we’ll pass them along through our social media channels.



Warning Advisory for HABs Issued for Jordan River and Canals

The Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD) issued a Warning Advisory for the Jordan River and its canals after samples showed levels of anatoxin-a that exceeded the recreation health-based threshold.

Jordan River

Warning Advisory sign for harmful algal blooms. Click for larger view.

Health officials advise people to stay out of the water and keep dogs from entering or drinking river water. Toxins present at this level have not been shown to present a health threat to people kayaking or boating on the surface of the river, but recreationists are advised to avoid areas of scum. SLCoHD also advises caution for the entire river, as cyanobacteria and toxins can spread and conditions change quickly.

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) reports that toxin levels are far below the point where they would issue an advisory for livestock water or have cause for concern for agricultural irrigation.

Samples collected at the Jordan Narrows where the Jordan River enters Salt Lake County, Blackridge Reservoir in Herriman, and at the Wheeler Farm East Canal detected very low levels of anatoxin-a, a potent neurotoxin.  SLCoHD posted warning signs at Wheeler Farm in Murray and Blackridge Reservoir in Herriman, as much of this water comes from the Jordan River and both are popular recreational points. No potentially affected water bodies in Salt Lake County will be closed to access at this time.

SLCoHD will continue to monitor and sample the Jordan River at its entry point into Salt Lake County, Blackridge Reservoir, and Wheeler Farm and will update advisories as necessary.

Toxin Test Results

Lab results from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) lab:

  • Jordan River at the Jordan Narrows: 0.45 micrograms per liter (µg/L) of anatoxin-a; 0.55 µg/L of microcystins
  • Blackridge Reservoir-Herriman: 0.47 µg/L of anatoxin-a; 0.19 µg/L of microcystins
  • Wheeler Farm East Canal: 0.53 µg/L of anatoxin-a; 0.56 µg/L of microcystins

Warning Advisory for Jordan River and Canals

A Warning Advisory indicates a moderate relative probability of acute health risk, cell-count density of 20,000 – 10 million cells per milliliter (cells/ml), microcystin levels of 4-2,000 micrograms per liter (µg/L), or anatoxin-a levels above non-detect. Advisory actions:

  • Do not swim or water ski
  • Do not ingest the water
  • Keep pets and livestock away
  • Clean fish well and discard guts
  • Avoid areas of scum when boating

See the full press release.

That “Idle-Free” Thing: Change is in the Air

By Deborah Burney-Sigman Ph.D., Guest Blogger


This student at Monte Verde Elementary who took second place in BYU STEM Fair for her research into parking-lot idling. Photo credit: Alice Rasmussen, Jordan School District.

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.

On a chilly fall weekday, my running group winced at the acrid odor before we turned the corner. Sure enough, a youngish driver was in an oldish car, engine going, listening to music while he waited.

Cars are a person’s turf. Most days, I’d as soon stick my hand in a strange dog’s kennel as knock on somebody’s car window. But this “idling thing’—well, it’s important.

Utah residents have made great strides in recent years to change their perception of idling. Rather than simply seeing it as a normal part of driving, many people now realize that the pollution from idling is not only unnecessary but also harmful to our health and air quality. This September will mark the 11th   Idle-Free Awareness Month in Utah.

It’s been a real team effort. Utah Clean Cities gathered signatures from town and city mayors throughout the state supporting the Governor’s declaration. Companies like Rio Tinto and Intermountain Health created idle-free policies and developed employee training on idle-free practices. Park City and the City of Alta have been officially idle-free for eight years. Salt Lake City passed a no-idling ordinance seven years ago. Holladay was next, followed by Logan, Murray City, South Salt Lake, with Sandy City and Cottonwood Heights joining in just this winter.

But let’s give credit to the idle-free pioneers. In 2006, Patti White’s sixth graders at Morningside Elementary learned about air pollution, decided to do something, and started Utah’s first Idle-Free campaign. Back then the kids sang their way to the State Capitol. They made signs and flyers for drivers at their school and inspired a movement. “Turn your key” signs have been spreading school by school since 2007. And the movement has moved beyond singing and sign for many students. A sixth grader at Monte Vista Elementary in Alicia Rasmussen’s class took second place in the Brigham Young University (BYU)  STEM Fair this spring with her parking-lot idling research project — a project she designed after Breathe Utah’s Air Aware class visit. Utah State University now runs an annual high school poster contest awarding artistic and marketing talent. The kids are on board with the idle-free movement in a big way.

idle free

Conservice award-winning idle-free poster. Photo credit: Ed Stafford, Utah State University

Idling is still the most obvious and easy way to help the air. So simple: turn the car off when it doesn’t need to be on. On the other hand, so many people Still. Just. Idle.

Maybe it was the gorgeous morning and the great run, but I waved cheerily to the idling young man, who, confused, rolled down his window. “Would you mind too terribly turning off your motor for now? I hope it’s not a problem. The exhaust is pretty strong out here.”

“Oh…is that that idling thing? Oh…I’m sor– I mean, I was just waiting…”

(Yes, it’s that idling thing.)

“Hey, yeah, no, I get it. It’s totally fine.” (His turf).  “But it would be so great of you. Thank you so much.” The engine turned off.

I sincerely hope the encounter made an ally and not an enemy.

More and more cars are hybrids or electric, which are inherently idle-free. Newest gasoline cars have stop/start software so the engine shuts off when you hit the brake and restarts when you lift your foot again, and their fuel savings are in the 5 – 10 percent range.

Idlers are surrounded. The goal has always been to phase out idling, to make it weird or rude instead of normal. For something so simple, it’s been a really tough sell. But car technology is closing in, and our kids have our backs on this.

Driver’s Ed in Utah is promoting Idle-Free — check out this new video!

Want to help promote “Be Idle-Free?”  Utah Clean Cities has brochures, card, and posters you can download and print and distribute at your school. Breathe Utah has developed supplemental idle-free resources, including an air-quality curriculum guide for schools. Salt Lake City has an order form you can complete to receive an Idle-Free sign for your home or business. And if you’ve been wanting to distribute some of those cool Idle-Free car decals for your car — or the neighbors idling in their driveways — visit Utah Clean Cities to purchase Idle-Free materials. Together we can raise awareness about Idle-Free!

idle free I am an 18-year inhabitant of this state, but I’m still working toward my Utahn card. I am homesteader enough to make two children and recruit a few parents here. Once upon a time, I was from San Francisco, trained in molecular biology at UC Santa Cruz and MIT, and moved to Salt Lake City with my husband Matt,  who is a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Utah. I helped found Breathe Utah in 2010.

Originally posted: August 27, 2018 at 11:00 am
Last updated: August 23, 2018 at 3:15 pm
Categories: Featured, News

Lindon Marina Closed due to Harmful Algal Bloom

The Utah County Health Department (UCHD) closed Utah Lake’s Lindon Marina today due to high cyanobacteria cell counts and toxin levels. Samples collected by the Division of Water Quality (DWQ) on August 14, 2018, showed cyanobacteria cell count-concentrations exceeding the recreation health-based threshold for a Danger Advisory. Utah County Health Department officials have posted Danger/Closed signs at the marina.

Lindon Marina

Lindon Marina, Utah Lake

Results from the Lindon Marina water sample showed cyanobacteria cell-concentrations of approximately 24.8 million cells per milliliter (cells/ml), well over the 10 million cells/ml threshold for a Danger Advisory.

Toxin tests conducted by the Utah Public Health Lab (UPHL) on the sample collected August 14, 2018, also showed extremely high levels of microcystin. Sample results showed 2,000 micrograms per liter (µg/L) of microcystin, which lies just below the recreation health-based Danger Advisory threshold of >2,000 µg/L.

Utah Lake Shoreline Samples

Lindon Marina

Lindon Marina

Cyanobacteria cell-count concentrations from shoreline samples collected on August 14, 2018, show extremely high cell counts, with Lindon Marina and Lincoln Marina both exceeding the recreation health-based threshold for a Danger Advisory/Closure. Sandy Beach cell counts of approximately 9 million cells/ml approached but did not exceed the Danger Advisory threshold. The remaining cell-count densities ranged from approximately 1.76 million cells/ml to approximately 4.5 million cells/ml.

Lab results showed that toxin levels for microcystins at American Fork Beach, Lincoln Marina, and Sandy Beach continued to exceed the recreation health-based threshold for a Warning Advisory. Microcystin levels at Lindon Marina came in just under the threshold for a Danger Advisory.

Danger Advisory for Lindon Marina, Lincoln Marina, and Lincoln Beach

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. Closure of the waterbody is recommended.