2023 State of the Environment

The Department of Environmental Quality State of the Environment report highlights the many accomplishments and successes our agency has had throughout the previous year. Click the tabs below to view each Division’s 2023 metrics, success stories, and quotes from partners. 

Division of Air Quality

The Division of Air Quality (DAQ) works to ensure that Utah’s air quality meets health and visibility standards by implementing policies and plans, issuing permits, conducting research, and verifying compliance with state and federal air quality rules. Over the past year, they have accomplished this through partnerships with industry and small business, process analysis and improvements, and community engagement to address neighborhood-level air quality concerns. 

“The Charge Your Yard incentive program has given landscapers an invaluable opportunity to address and overcome their concerns about battery products. Businesses have been able to experience zero exhaust, low maintenance, high power products at little or no cost. Wilkinson Supply and our customers are very grateful for the generosity of the [DAQ] for providing this opportunity. Wilkinson Supply has recognized that the outdoor power equipment industry will be moving more and more towards battery powered products as time continues. We were very excited about the benefits Charge Your Yard would allow us to offer to our customers. We were extremely grateful to be selected to be a participating retailer and recycling center.”

Katie Wilkinson, Wilkinson Supply

Major and minor source compliance rate: 95%

Success Story

DAQ Partners With Small Business to Reduce Pollution

Emissions modeling estimates the amount of pollution produced by operating a gas-powered, 2-stroke leaf blower for one hour is equivalent to driving from Ogden to Disneyland – that’s 727 miles! Emissions from 2-stroke lawn equipment, including leaf blowers and string trimmers, contribute significantly to the formation of ground-level ozone across Utah’s Wasatch Front. Ozone is formed when nitrogen oxides (NOx) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) combine in the presence of sunlight and is a trigger for increased respiratory illnesses. 

In an effort to reduce ozone pollution and its harmful effects, DAQ created an incentive program called Charge Your Yard to encourage lawn maintenance businesses to exchange their gas-powered equipment with zero-emission, battery-electric units. Partnerships from local metal recyclers and small-engine retailers were vital to the success of the program. One particular retailer, Wilkinson Supply, located in Ogden, went above and beyond to best serve participants of Charge Your Yard. 

Wilkinson provided exceptional service to lawn maintenance businesses by assisting them with program registration and collecting their old gas-powered equipment for recycling. They also provided invaluable feedback to our agency and enhanced the program with their industry perspective. 

The Grounds Manager for the Little America and Grand America hotels in Salt Lake City, Dirk VanWagoner, recycled 6 gas blowers and 6 gas trimmers in exchange for new, electric equipment from Wilkinson Supply. When asked about his experience with electric equipment, he spoke positively, “I love the convenience of battery power. We love the weed eaters and blowers. We love the quietness. I love not dealing with gas issues, and we have the power we need. Between Little America and Grand America, we have about $14,000 of battery equipment. The Charge Your Yard program was the tipper for me. There is no way I would have gone that way without it. It was a neat program.” 

As a result of the 2023 partnership between DAQ and Wilkinson Supply, 53 lawn care businesses recycled 226 string trimmers and 95 leaf blowers, removing 1.25 tons of air pollution from the local airshed. 

“The mission of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, ‘Safeguarding and improving Utah’s air, land and water through balanced regulation,’ is admirable,” Katie Wilkinson said. “This was showcased in the Charge Your Yard incentive program. Wilkinson Supply has been grateful for the focus on desired results, rather than a focus on policy.” DAQ’s partnership with small businesses like Wilkinson Supply is a win-win for the local economy and a healthy and prosperous Utah.

Division of Drinking Water

The Division of Drinking Water (DDW) protects drinking water by supporting the safe design and operation of Utah’s public drinking water systems. Its goal is to provide safe drinking water at every tap in every building in Utah. The Division does this by working cooperatively with drinking water professionals and the public to ensure a safe and reliable supply of drinking water. 

“The Division of Drinking Water has been a critical partner with the City’s PureSoJo water reuse demonstration project. Staff from DDW has provided instrumental feedback as the City works towards being able to provide taste testing of the purified water to the public. The work and collaboration taking place between the City and DDW on future potable reuse regulations will benefit all future reuse projects within the State of Utah. The City appreciates all work and support provided by DDW staff as we move forward with PureSoJo.”

Jason Rasmussen, Assistant City Manager, City of South Jordan

99.9 % of population served by an approved public water system (last year’s average; as of Dec 6, 2023)
96.6 % of public water systems maintained Division Approval (last year’s average; as of Dec 6, 2023)
89% of schools have completed initial lead testing (65% increase from last year)
Authorized $ 104,098,420 in financial assistance for 100 projects

Success Story:

PureSoJo Pilot the First of Its Kind in Utah

Direct potable reuse, the practice of taking treated wastewater and further treating it to drinking water standards is an important option for the future of Utah’s drinking water resilience. The Division of Drinking Water has been working with the City of South Jordan on PureSoJo – their direct potable reuse pilot project, the first of its kind in Utah. For the first phase of operations, we worked closely with the City of South Jordan to develop and issue a special permit for the project in February 2022. This involved significant data collection and analysis by the city to develop treatment goals and establish performance prior to any public taste testing. Based on the performance of the pilot, the Division is planning to develop and issue a special permit allowing for public taste testing at the PureSoJo pilot in early 2024. This will allow the City of South Jordan to start their education and outreach campaign, bringing the public into the PureSoJo pilot facility and developing public support and acceptance for this new drinking water source.

Division of Environmental Response & Remediation

The Division of Environmental Response and Remediation (DERR) works within communities to prevent and respond to environmental contamination and restore land to beneficial use. They accomplish this through a wide variety of programs, including those that facilitate the cleanup of contaminated properties for development, oversee Superfund site cleanup and community outreach, and prevent and minimize releases from petroleum storage tanks. 

“The UDEQ team have been critical partners to Salt Lake County’s EPA-funded work. They’ve contributed hours of advice, suggestions, and counsel that has improved our assessment grant and revolving loan fund programs immeasurably. In short, we wouldn’t be able to do this work without them.”

Kersten Swinyard
Acting Economic Development Director
Salt Lake County Office of Regional Development

13 Brownfields Tools Issued

Success Stories

Supporting growing communities through land reuse

Brownfields are properties where the expansion, redevelopment or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. These properties are located in almost all cities in Utah, which can create challenges for redeveloping properties along key commercial corridors. 

To help cities, towns and public entities become aware of the tools and resources available to address Brownfields, such as grants, we actively reach out to community officials, city planners and economic development managers to educate them on grant opportunities and to help them prepare grant applications. A support letter from DEQ is key to a successful EPA grant application. This year we assisted Spanish Fork City, Murray City and the University of Utah with grant applications for several important projects.

In the spring, EPA will announce grant recipients nationwide. If awarded, Utah applicants will be able to use the funding to conduct Phase I and II Environmental Site Assessments — one of the first steps in cleaning up land and returning property to productive use for the community.

In addition, this past year, we established the framework for our Brownfields state-wide assessment grant and received initial applications for assessments (Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments) from seven different communities in both urban and rural locations across the state.

Clearing the way for professional baseball in Utah

Under the Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) we oversaw a number of active cleanups in 2023. Work was conducted throughout the state (Beaver County, Wasatch County, Utah County, Weber County and Salt Lake County) including a former mining site, a dry cleaner and an abandoned shooting range. Our efforts addressed a variety of contamination in soil and water including metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and volatile organics. Our staff reviewed documents, conducted site visits and worked with VCP program applicants to ensure standards were met and were protective of human health and the environment. With each cleanup under the VCP, the public had the opportunity to provide comments. 

The Rocky Mountain Power, Power Redevelopment project located along the banks of the Jordan River in Salt Lake City is part of the VCP, and state leaders hope this site will be the future home of the first professional baseball team in Utah. Project work at this site is on-going, but over 45,000 tons of material has been removed to date. 

Division of Waste Management & Radiation Control

The Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control (WMRC) ensures the proper management of solid and hazardous waste, guarantees the safe management of radioactive materials, provides education and outreach to industry and communities, and promotes recycling efforts.

They accomplish this by working closely with facilities to clean up waste-contaminated areas and establish permit and licensing conditions that ensure that waste treatment, storage, and disposal practices protect human health and the environment. Health physicists safeguard citizens from exposure to radiation through equipment inspections and oversight of the industrial and medical uses of radioactive materials.

“TEAD (Tooele Army Depot) is appreciative of the great effort your staff provides in supporting all aspects of TEAD. Thankfully we feel that the great working group we have established will continue to benefit the Environmental tasks that face the Department of Defense Depot at Tooele. Your staff is superiorly great with technical support for TEAD”

Tyson Erickson
Environmental Protection Specialist, Restoration Manager

“Thank you so very much in your efforts to approve Saint George Regional Hospital for the use of pluvicto (lutetium PSMA) and lutathera (lutetium Dotatate). The fact that you all were willing to meet and work together on this front proves how special Utah is and the civil servants like you all who make it run! This will save our patients thousands of miles of travel in potentially bad weather conditions and increase access to life prolonging treatment that will truly make a difference, this Winter especially.

This is the first time I have ever worked together directly with our state government in any capacity. I am so impressed and encouraged by you all. This truly made a difference.”

Dustin Boothe, MD
Radiation Oncology
Intermountain Health

444 inspections of X-ray machines completed in accordance with the X-ray program
92 inspections completed in accordance with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements for Radioactive Material Licensees
111 inspections completed in accordance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act

Success Stories

Process Improvements Through Partnership

The Division’s Used Oil Program worked with Representative Chew and the Utah Farm Bureau to educate farmers on where they can drop-off used oil for recycling at no cost. We developed a fact sheet  and provided educational outreach at  the Utah Farmer Bureau Federation’s Annual Convention. The Used Oil Program is also collaborating with Southeast and Central Health Departments in a pilot program to streamline documentation of used oil collected at Used Oil  Collection Centers using QR codes.

Cleanup at Landfill 5

The Division has conducted years of extensive site investigations and corrective action at the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR). One of the areas, Landfill 5, consisted of six disposal cells and accepted waste from 1976-1983. Over 12,800 tons of hazardous waste was placed in the unlined landfill, including organic solvents, acids and oxidizers, alkali, cyanide and other salt wastes, heavy metals, and wastewater treatment sludge. Initial protective actions included leaving the waste in place and covering it with a synthetic cover and soil. Unfortunately, the initial capping plan was found to be  ineffective and groundwater contamination persisted. As a result, additional action was necessary,  including removal of all waste from the disposal cells and shipment of the waste to a permitted off-site landfill.  Landfill 5 was subsequently backfilled with clean fill and graded to ensure management of run-on and run-off surface water.  The final grading of the landfill, including seeding and planting of native grass was completed in May 2023.  Landfill 5 is now closed with long term monitoring of groundwater. 

Navigating Sustainability: A New Tool for Recycling Resources

The Division developed the Utah Recycling and Solid Waste Facility Locator Map, a new tool to help the public locate recycling, solid waste, and used oil collection center facilities. The map is part of the Statewide Recycling Data Initiative, an effort with the goal of providing user-friendly tools that will assess recycling performance by collecting and sharing state-wide data on the amount of waste generated, composted, and recycled annually in Utah. The collected data will be publicly available and is a crucial step in identifying areas that would benefit from increased recycling opportunities.

Division of Water Quality

The Division of Water Quality (DWQ) safeguards Utah’s surface and groundwater through programs designed to protect, maintain, and enhance the quality of Utah’s waters. To ensure that the state’s waters meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act and Utah Water Quality Act. 

They accomplish this by developing water-quality standards and watershed protection plans, issuing permits, providing construction loans and grants, responding to environmental spills that impact waterways, and partnering with health departments to address water quality and health issues.

“Over the last few years the Utah Division of Water Quality has gone above and beyond as a partner to the Utah Lake Commission. Division staff have worked tirelessly to find solutions to complex water quality concerns, have run an effective harmful algal bloom monitoring program, and have funded critical projects to improve the lake. We are grateful for this partnership with the Division of Water Quality and look forward to continued collaboration in the future.”

Eric Ellis
Executive Director
Utah Lake Authority

$35,309,572 invested in clean water projects (including $13M in legislative funds). $33,309,572 Point source Infrastructure $2,000,000 Non-point source Infrastructure, rehabilitation, outreach and education.
81 days of sampling for Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and E. coli collection efforts at 166 waterbodies totaling 561 site visits.
719 individual sampling events at 82 different sites and 53 individual Lake sampling events at 29 different lakes in the Uinta Basin.

Success Stories

Landowner Driven Watershed Plan Improves Huff Creek Water Quality 

The Division of Water Quality (DWQ) has been working collaboratively with a number of partners over the past few decades to improve water quality in the Chalk Creek Watershed. Through this effort the Echo-Rockport Reservoir Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study was finalized and formally approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The TMDL identifies actions needed to improve water quality in those two reservoirs. The TMDL identified Huff Creek (which flows into Chalk Creek) as a major source of sediment and nutrients in Echo Reservoir.  

Sediment and Nutrients in Huff Creek travels to Echo Reservoir and fills it with sediment and ultimately leads to Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). In addition, over the past 30 years the native Cutthroat Trout have declined due to warming water temperatures primarily caused by the loss of stream-shading shrubs and trees from season-long livestock grazing. The native cutthroat trout generally cannot not survive in streams where the temperature exceeds 65℉, however, there is data available indicating that summer water temperatures have reached over 77℉ in the past.

In 2017, DWQ’s Nonpoint Source Program supported the development of a landowner-driven watershed plan (Huff Creek Coordinated Resource Management Plan) to identify critical steps needed to improve water quality in Huff Creek. Partners including local landowners, DWQ, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Trout Unlimited collaboratively identified healthy rangelands and native fishes as important values within the Huff Creek watershed. The partners identified a unique approach to improve the rangeland for livestock and wildlife and the stream for native cutthroat trout.

In 2018, the partners developed a series of large riparian pastures within the valley bottoms that would abstain from grazing for several years. The large riparian pastures where grazing ceased for several years resulted in native shrubs growing back and beginning to provide shade. Also during this time, rotational grazing was implemented and livestock water systems on the rangeland were developed, which distribute livestock more effectively. Funding was provided through the Nonpoint Source Program, Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative (WRI), and landowner labor. 

2023 was a breakthrough year along the creek. Shrubs have started to grow and shade Huff Creek, and beavers are building dams where the creek eroded deep gullies. This watershed-scale approach has become a model for other ranches throughout Utah looking to improve rangeland health and waterways. Nonpoint source projects typically take years to see substantial beneficial impacts, so it was an exciting year to see the benefits of the hard work from DWQ and its partners come to fruition.

Millville City’s Prospective Move from Septic to Sewer

Over the past 30 years, Millville City’s Glenridge Well suffered contamination from individual septic tank systems. This was evidenced by an increase in nitrate concentrations in the well from 3.3 mg/L to 8.8 mg/L. High levels of nitrates in water can be dangerous to human health, especially infants. 

This nitrate increase required the construction of a new sewerage system and connection to Hyrum City’s water reclamation plant. At the time, Millville was the second largest unsewered community in Utah. Millville’s plan to implement their new sewerage system will protect a valuable regional drinking water resource and contribute to growth in the area. 

New sewer systems are challenging projects to implement due to high costs and affordability concerns from the community. Millville’s project faced these difficulties as well as the recent escalation in construction costs due to trade labor shortages, materials costs, and supply chain issues. The total project cost is $30,060,000. 

To address cost concerns, the Water Quality Board partnered with the US Department of Agriculture-Rural Development (USDA-RD) to bring this project in at an affordable monthly rate for Millville residents. The Water Quality Board has committed $9,250,000 in grant funding and the USDA-RD has committed $9,349,000 in grant funding, as well as low interest loans from both agencies. These funding packages will set a monthly sewer rate of $88.97. 

Mayor David Hair and Cory Twedt, city recorder, represented their community well and the citizens of Millville have shown strong support and commitment to the project. When complete, the Millville sewer project will result in lasting regional sewer service, a healthy, vibrant community, with long term protection of the critical drinking water supply on which the town depends and grows.

Photo of Huff Creek

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