4 Ways You Can Help
By Donna Kemp Spangler
Summer is a time to play outdoors. For fun-seekers there’s plenty of options: River-rafting the Green River, backpacking Mount Timpanogos, fishing at Deer Creek Reservoir or boating in Lake Powell – to name a few.
For scientists at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, summer is a time for field work: Testing for water pollution, cleaning up contaminated lands, or monitoring the air for ozone levels. And while it might not sound as fun as water skiing or rock climbing, we all have to do our part to make our outdoor fun time a healthy time.
Here are some tips to keep Utah’s environment safe and fun:
- Avoid areas of algae scum: Water Quality scientists are currently sampling water at popular lakes and reservoirs for signs of harmful algal blooms. Blooms are a natural occurrence. But some algal species produce cyanotoxins that can harm people, pets, livestock and wildlife.
What You Can Do: In most cases, you can still enjoy boating and fishing but heed the warning signs when posted: Keep pets away, don’t ingest the water, clean any fish caught and properly dispose of the entrails. And when it comes to your own back yard, avoid over-fertilizing to make sure you’re not contributing to algae blooms from runoff.
- Dispose of your waste properly: Scientists and engineers in the Division of Waste Management & Radiation Control are at work inspecting facilities to make sure they meet required regulations such as proper storage and disposal of hazardous chemicals. Environmental Response and Remediation staff oversees cleanups to restore once-contaminated sites into prosperous viable economic developments. Much of these cleanup efforts are due to poor disposal practices.
What You Can Do: Reduce use of chemicals and properly dispose of waste. Reduce, reuse, recycle is a good mantra to practice. If you see litter, pick it up and dispose it properly.
- Conserve water: The Division of Drinking Water (DDW) is committed to ensuring we all have reliable, clean and adequate drinking water. The staff at DDW does this by inspecting the 1,036 active drinking water systems throughout the state so that no contaminates reach our tap. But we shouldn’t take our water for granted. We do have limited supply.
What You Can Do: Use water wisely. For landscaping, water lawns early in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler, use water-resistant timers or plant low-water and drought-tolerant foliage. When you turn on your sprinkler systems make sure your backflow protection devices are turned on so you don’t contaminate the water. Fix leaky faucets or use low-flow toilets and wait to run the dishwasher or washing machine when it is full.
- Clean air: The Division of Air Quality meteorologists keep tabs on the weather and pollution levels to forecast the air quality conditions for 12 counties across the state. Ozone rears its ugly head during the summer. A typical hot summer day when the air is stagnant can be the perfect recipe for ozone: vehicle exhaust, gas-powered lawn equipment, and idling engines combine with sunlight and heat to cook up an unhealthy brew.
What You Can Do: Check the air quality forecast at airquality.utah.gov and plan ahead. Division of Air Quality calls “air action” days before the ozone reaches unhealthy levels. What that means is we can drive smarter by consolidating trips, drive a well-tuned vehicle or better yet, walk, bike, take transit and ditch the vehicle all together.
We all can make a difference with just a few simple healthy choices to make our summer safe and healthy.
I am the Communications Director for DEQ and a former reporter for the Deseret News. I write a periodic blog post. You can read my previous blog posts here at deq.utah.gov . You can follow me on Twitter.