By Donna Kemp Spangler
There’s a tradition at our house on Thanksgiving where everyone around the dinner table, family and friends alike, share something special they are thankful for. It’s typically the usual – good health, great friends or sometimes specific successes. So it seems fitting to be thankful for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for the following 10 reasons:
- Who We Are: Alan Matheson, executive director of DEQ, has led efforts to refine DEQ’s mission, vision and values to reflect our actions, decisions and how we interact with the public. We take pride in our values: Exceptional Service, Commitment to Employees, Credibility & Trust and Continuous Improvement.
- UtahAir App: Air quality conditions are accessible through your smartphone, thanks to a partnership between Weber State University and the Division of Air Quality. In 2010, Joe Thomas, section manager for mobile sources at DAQ and director of the National Center of Automotive Science & Technology at Weber State, suggested that NCAST develop an air quality phone app. I’m glad they did, and so are the 36,000-plus people who have downloaded the app.
- UCAIR: In 2012, Governor Gary Herbert announced the formation of the Utah Clean Air Partnership, or UCAIR, to rally support for clean air by challenging people to do something to improve Utah’s air. UCAIR became a nonprofit organization, bringing together clean air advocates to raise awareness and funding. It has made a difference. To date, UCAIR has provided nearly $1.6 million in grants and loans to assist businesses with installing cleaner technology along with other clean air initiatives.
- Social Media: DEQ strives to connect and engage with the public. One way is through DEQ’s social media channels: Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest and YouTube. Here we reach our several thousand followers to answer questions, feature employees and issues, showcase campaigns and continue the conversation. Our favorite hashtags: #ThisIsMyUtah #AskDEQNotPhil #WaterIsLife #Science4Solutions.
- Safe Drinking Water: Like D’yani Wood wrote in her earlier blog, it’s easy to take clean and healthy drinking water for granted. The Division of Drinking Water makes sure all water systems throughout the state are keeping their water safe and maintaining their systems in a way that prevents accidents and contamination. I am confident when I turn on the tap there’s a system in place to make sure it’s safe.
- District Engineers: DEQ employs four engineers, each one assigned to different corners of the state to ensure the tap water is clean, sewer systems are working, and environmental messes are cleaned up. They are the face of DEQ in rural Utah, and I’m grateful for all they do, working with local health departments to safeguard and enhance Utah’s quality of life.
- FrontRunner: Utah Transit Authority’s commuter rail has made it easier and more convenient to get passengers to their destinations along the Wasatch Front, from Pleasant View to Provo. Following its opening in 2012, UTA reported more than 7,800 riders per day. That means fewer single-occupancy vehicles are on the road, leading to better air quality.
- Great Salt Lake: This is one of the largest salt water lakes in the Western Hemisphere. It is of critical ecological importance to the millions of birds who depend on the lake’s resource, and a vital economic importance, contributing over $1 billion to Utah’s economy each year from industry and recreation. The Division of Water Quality has worked to ensure that water quality remains sufficient to maintain the lake’s important benefits and has established the first-ever selenium standard – a process that included numerous stakeholders.
- Radon Awareness: In October 1990, DEQ became home to the Utah Indoor Radon Program. Radon is an invisible, odorless gas that causes cancer. DEQ has been the leader in increasing radon awareness, testing homes, mitigating homes, building homes with radon resistant new construction in Utah for the past 26 years. Last year, 6,232 radon tests were completed. Radon testing is the only way to know whether you have unsafe levels in your home. It saves lives.
- Environmental Cleanups: There are numerous examples of turning once-contaminated properties into economic development opportunities. Properties that include: Geneva Steel, Midvale Slag, Eureka Mills, Murray Smelter, Davenport and Flagstaff smelters, and Simpson Steel, to name a few. DEQ’s Waste Management and Environmental Response and Remediation work diligently to oversee cleanups that protect public health and environment.
I am honored to work with such a dedicated group protecting Utahns and their families.
There are so many things I’m thankful for about DEQ, like our harmful algal bloom (HABS) response team, who protected our health and waters this summer. I invite you to tell me what you are thankful for about DEQ, either this year or in general, and to visit DEQ’s web site to learn more about us.
I 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. You can follow me on Twitter @deqdonna