COVID-19: In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is limiting person-to-person contact and will close our offices to the public starting on April 3. Please contact DEQ here to conduct business.

Reduce Emissions – Improve Air Quality

By Brandy Cannon

Businesses and other sources that emit pollutants into the air often require permits, which set limits on the amount of pollution they
can release. Permit writers at the Division of Air Quality (DAQ) are always looking for ways to improve air quality and reduce emissions, particularly the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that contribute to the formation of PM2.5 in the winter and ozone in the summer.

In April, DAQ hosted a four-day workshop on “Sources and Control of Volatile Organic Air Pollutants” to give us an opportunity to sharpen our permit-writing skills. The workshop—part of EPA’s Air Pollution Training Institute (APTI) curriculum—provided important information and resources that will help us stay current on VOC sources and control techniques.

VOCs are highly reactive hydrocarbons that combine with other gases in the air to form harmful pollutants. Sources of VOCs include cars and trucks, industrial facilities, and area sources such as auto-body shops, print shops and dry cleaners.

The workshop focused on three major areas:

  • Larger industrial sources of VOCs
  • Emissions occurring at particular points in industrial processes
  • VOC control methods

We got a chemistry review of VOCs and the more common reactions involved in the formation of ozone and photochemical smog. Since it has been a while since my last chemistry class, I was grateful for the refresher. We also learned about area source processes—such as degreasing and surface coating—that release VOCs into the atmosphere. I believe the student manual we received will be particularly useful when we are tasked with writing a permit for a source outside our usual area of expertise.

But what really resonated with me was something else I learned
during the workshop: that a large percentage of VOC emissions come from cars, trucks, lawn and garden equipment, and motorized recreational vehicles. How I use my car, lawn mower, or (if I had one) boat or snowmobile has a significant impact on the quality of our air.

I feel very lucky that the permitting branch of DAQ recognizes the value of continuing education and encourages its employees to participate in work-related training opportunities whenever possible. The workshop was a valuable reminder to me about the many ways I can help reduce emissions (VOC) , not only on-the-job but also in my personal life. We all can make a difference—even if we don’t write permits—to improve air quality and reduce emissions through our lifestyle and consumer choices.

To learn more about how you can reduce your VOC emissions this summer, visit our ozone webpage.

I have a B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering and currently work in the Operating Permits section of the Division of Air Quality. I love pelicans, dogs and vegan cooking.