On July 1, 1991 the Utah Department of Environmental Quality was born. As we celebrate our 30th anniversary it’s important to look back on how the agency was created.
It was former Governor Norm Bangerter who suggested DEQ become its own agency. It was created by consolidating six environmental health bureaus housed in the Utah Department of Health.
In the 1990 State of the State address, Bangerter said, “a healthy environment is essential to Utah’s future. To be short-sighted in our management of the environment is to shortchange the next generation. In order to highlight the importance of this issue and in the interest of expediting the resolution of the many environmental issues facing the state, I am requesting the creation of a Department of Environmental Quality.”
During the 1991 legislative session, the late Sen. Steve Rees sponsored the bill that created DEQ with the mission of “safeguarding human health and quality of life by protecting and enhancing the environment.”
Fast forward to 2021, DEQ’s five divisions – Air Quality, Waste Management and Radiation Control, Environmental Response and Remediation, Water Quality and Drinking Water – continue to play key roles in protecting and enhancing Utah’s environment.
“Working for DEQ is exciting and challenging because our work represents the intersection of science, policy, and administration,” said Erica Gaddis, Division of Water Quality director. “It is an honor to be part of the Water Quality team. Our employees are smart, professional, innovative, and care deeply about our mission to protect Utah’s waters.”
Milestones and achievements
- 20+ air monitoring stations established across the state
- Responded to hundreds of communities experiencing threats or disruptions to their drinking water supply due to contamination, drought, natural disasters, or infrastructure failure
- Thousands of acres of land cleaned up and returned to beneficial use through the Voluntary Cleanup Program
- Established the Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) program that works to address HABs through prevention, monitoring, and public information
- Ensured that patients are receiving the lowest effective dose of radiation possible through hundreds of yearly inspections, X-ray machine registration, and education
To celebrate the important milestone, DEQ held a morning event with legislators, stakeholders, and current and former DEQ leaders. In the afternoon, employees gathered for a 30th Anniversary themed picnic.
“I came to DEQ because I like to help people solve problems and I am focused on making the world a better place through my work – and that is exactly what DEQ does! At DEQ we work to solve people’s problems and make Utah better for future generations,” said Tim Davis, Division of Drinking Water director. The extreme drought we are currently in highlights the work DEQ does and the importance of helping make Utah more resilient.”
To learn more about DEQ’s work and view pictures from both events, click through the images below.