Skip to content
Search Main Menu Utah Department of Environmental Quality
Secondary Navigation

Water, Water, Everywhere: Is Your Drinking Water Safe after a Flood?

Over the past month, snowpack runoff, wet weather, and warm conditions have led to major flooding in northern Utah. When the Bear River crested in mid-February 2017, Garland City, Tremonton, Bothwell, Thatcher, East Garland Park, Riverside, Fielding, Plymouth, Corinne, Deweyville, Portage, and areas below the Cutler dam were hit with area-wide flooding. Roads and railroad crossings were washed out, floodwaters poured into yards and basements, and residents piled up sandbags to keep the water at bay.

The safety of our drinking water is often one of our first concerns after a flood. Fortunately, northern Utah’s public water systems didn’t experience water contamination from the flooding. This is due in large part to ongoing, behind-the-scenes efforts by the water systems and the Division of Drinking Water (DDW) to ensure that residents have a safe and adequate supply of drinking water.

DDW sets up periodic site inspections to ensure that public water systems follow drinking-water rules and regulations. During inspections, water operators look for areas where contamination could enter the system. Public water systems are also required to pull routine samples from areas that represent the entire water system. Finally, these systems are pressurized so the possibility of contamination is minimal.

Click on infographic for larger view

Most of the public water systems also chlorinate their water. The systems that do chlorinate provide an added layer of protection to their water. Chlorine is fed at rates that leave a chlorine residual. The residuals are there to attack contamination that gets into the water system. Operators that work for systems that chlorinate can do a rapid test that lets them know if there is residual. Absence of or low residuals would indicate there could be a problem, and the operator would begin pulling samples to test for bacteria. This continuous monitoring for contaminants ensures the safety of the drinking water. If something were to happen, residents would be notified immediately about the steps they should take, such as boiling their water, until samples are clean.

While residents connected to a public water system don’t need to worry about the safety of their drinking water, homeowners with private wells may. Flooding can compromise the quality and safety of the drinking water if contaminated floodwater enters the vent in the well casing and goes down into the well. The Bear River Health Department is offering free sampling to homeowners with private wells and urging well owners to have their water tested. If the samples show positive for bacteriological contamination, the health department can provide guidance on disinfection procedures. The health department also recommends that homeowners hire pump or well contractors to disinfect drilled, driven, or bored wells that may have been contaminated by floodwaters.

Overflowing septic tanks and sewer systems are another area of concern. Residents with septic tanks should monitor the situation and consider the possibility of private well contamination from septic or sewer systems. The Bear River Health Department advises homeowners with septic systems or flooding near their wells to refrain from drinking well water until it has been tested.

In addition to our ongoing efforts to ensure safe drinking water at the affected public water systems, we have been involved in sending out requests for pumps to help pump out vaults and flooded utilities. A tweet was sent out with the help of the Utah Water and Wastewater Response Network (WARN) to member agencies requesting pumps. Circuit Riders from the Rural Water Association of Utah were deployed to the flooded areas to provide onsite assistance and continue to keep DDW briefed on the situation. The Division is communicating with the health departments and offering technical assistance and resources to the affected systems. We’re also working with the Division of Emergency Management to assist with any technical needs that may arise.

Our main goal is the safety of your water and ensuring you have a good supply of it. We will continue to do all we can to work with the various agencies and offer any assistance, both during spring flooding and any other emergency situations, to keep your drinking water clean and safe.

Want to know more? The Bear River Health Department has prepared a series of fact sheets for residents affected by the recent flooding, including instructions for cleaning indoor sewage contamination, what to do with your septic system after a flood, and how to disinfect your well and test your well water. To learn more about how the Division of Drinking Water works to protect the safety of your drinking water every day, visit our webpage.

I am the Field Services Manager for the Division of Drinking Water. I have been in the water industry for 32 years. I am adjunct faculty at Utah Valley University and have taught several courses on subjects relating to water.

This entry was originally published on March 20th, 2017 and posted in news.

Drinking Water Is a Lifelong Passion for DEQ’s Marie Owens

By DEQ Communications Office

Marie Owens is the new director of the Division of Drinking Water at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. She brings great experience and enthusiasm to DEQ, along with a commitment to continue the legacy of collaboration between regulators, water professionals, and the public to ensure safe and reliable drinking water throughout Utah. We sat down with her for an interview last week.

Marie Owen at the Jordan River Water Conservancy District Conservation Gardens. The Conservancy District's drinking water treatment plant ensures residents receive safe drinking water.
How did you become interested in engineering?

I was good at math and science in high school, so a teacher encouraged me to pursue engineering. Utah State University (USU) has a great STEM (scientific, technology, engineering, and mathematics) program, so I enrolled there. When I took the engineering aptitude test, I bombed it. The counselors at Utah State gently suggested that I consider going into something other than engineering. My response? “I AM going into engineering.” It was the driver I needed. Just because I didn’t know the information at first didn’t mean I couldn’t — or wouldn’t — learn it. Not only did I learn it, but I learned to love it.

Tell us a little more about college.

My first major at Utah State was electrical engineering, but I found studying the movement of tiny electrons too abstract, so I checked into the then-brand-new discipline, environmental engineering. In fact, there were only three or four environmental engineering programs in the country at that time, and USU had just finished going through the accreditation process. As an environmental engineering student, I studied air quality, water quality, wastewater, hazardous waste, and natural systems. Wastewater and drinking water were paired together, which may seem counterintuitive at DEQ, but it’s all about “water in, water out,” and both types of water are treated. I soon discovered I was passionate about protecting drinking water, so that became my focus.

Marie Owens in protective gear to check out a drinking water system.

Just another typical day at Metro.

What did you do after you graduated?

After I graduated from Utah State, I started what was supposed to be a three-year position with the Metropolitan Water District of Sandy to collect water data. A 1996 Environmental Protection Agency rule called the Information Collection Rule required water systems to collect, analyze and submit data for EPA to use in developing rules for the next decade. Water systems collect this much data all the time now, but it was a very large undertaking back in the day, and I was hired to specifically handle this requirement for the three-year mandate. Three years eventually turned into ten!

You mentioned that you had a great mentor at Metro. What did you learn from him?

Yes, I had the good fortune to work with John Carman, who took the time to teach me about what it meant to be steward of public health. Carman valued the individual and taught me that everyone who works at a public water system, from the janitor to the general manager, has a critical role in ensuring our drinking water is clean and safe. Everybody contributes to the end product, and all of us are necessary.

What was it like being a woman during a time when engineering was a predominantly male profession?

Again, I have to give Carman a lot of credit for making my introduction into the world of drinking water a positive experience. He didn’t hire me because I was a woman, but he didn’t shy away from it either. I never felt like my gender opened — or closed — any doors for me. There were of course times when I would get asked for my opinion just to have a “woman’s perspective”, which is patronizing. But overall, I have had a wonderful career full of amazing people who just want to do the right thing for drinking water.

You’ve been in the public sector your entire career. What have you observed about the people who choose to work in the public rather than the private sector?

I’m pretty much ready to try anything, including water tunnels

People don’t go into public service for the prestige, they do it because they can and want to do something that makes a difference. I believe it’s important that our Division of Drinking Water (DDW) staff feel valued for all the great work they’re doing. Utah has over 1000 drinking-water systems, and DDW supports them all so every resident can count on safe, clean drinking water when they turn on their tap. The folks here at DDW pay constant attention to our drinking water so residents have the privilege of forgetting about it.

Tell us a little about “Utah Women of Water,” the organization you helped get started.

I had had several conversations over the years about creating a forum for women with careers in the water industry to learn from and support each other. Christina Osborn, the current president, got it off the ground four years ago, but I’ve been involved from the beginning. Our mission is “Engage, Empower, and Educate.” I think it’s really important for women to network with their peers, meet other women who can serve as mentors, and exchange ideas and information about this fast-changing industry. Our current membership includes scientists, technicians, teachers, engineers, and students. I enjoy mentoring, and Women of Water gives me the opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with other women in the field. Each of us can bring new perspectives to the industry.

 Anything else you’d like to add?

I absolutely love Utah! Our urban, rural, and agricultural communities, coupled with our amazing recreational opportunities, make this a terrific place to live. I grew up in Tremonton on a dry farm — meaning no irrigation, so I learned about the importance of water from a young age. I have a passion for drinking water. I’m proud of all the people at DDW who put in so much effort to ensure that people always have safe water to drink. We are committed to protecting the drinking water throughout the state of Utah, and I am excited to be part of this great team. Utah Rocks!

If you want to learn more about all the great things happening in the Division of Drinking Water, check out our webpage or our annual Open Line newsletter filled with need-to-know information about all things Division of Drinking Water.

I was born and raised in Tremonton, Utah into a family of eight. My father was a wheat farmer, and I grew up wild and free in the dirt and have maintained that sense of adventure ever since. I love exploring the back country of this beautiful state as well as the cultural richness throughout the country. A rainy day on the farm meant that no one could work, so I soon developed a love storms. There is nothing more beautiful to me than storm clouds against Utah’s mountains or red rock.

 I was valedictorian of my graduating class at Bear River High School and attended Utah State University where I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Engineering. During that time, I worked at the Water Research Laboratory in Logan, which led to an internship with the Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake and Sandy, which led to an offer to work full-time for Metro as a Process Engineer. I worked on the Information Collection Rule, a Solids Residual Management Study, pilot testing and design of the Point of the Mountain Water Treatment Plant, source water protection, and the Salt Lake Aqueduct Title Transfer. From there, I moved to Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District as their Water Quality Division Manager. At Jordan Valley, I continued to add to my surface water treatment skills with distribution, groundwater, and laboratory analysis while continuing to actively work on source protection and collaboration groups. It was at Jordan Valley that realized how much I love working with people and mentoring new professionals.

 Somewhere along the way I managed to find a wonderful husband who has been willing to put up with my quirkiness and we have four amazing kids. They are what I am really proud of in my life, and they keep me grounded and humble. They are also my adventure buddies.

 I am so excited to take on the role Director for the Division of Drinking Water. I truly believe that the drinking water industry is filled with passionate people who care about doing the right thing for the right reason. I love everything about water and love interacting with the people who share my passion.  

 

This entry was originally published on March 13th, 2017, updated on March 13th, 2017, and posted in news.

DEQ: Getting Serious about Improving Utah’s Air

By Donna Kemp Spangler

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is getting serious about improving Utah’s air quality by 2019.

Don’t get me wrong, DEQ’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) has always been serious about improving air quality. Specifically, DAQ works to find reasonable and measurable solutions to bring Utah’s “nonattainment” areas of the state into compliance with federal health standards for fine particulate pollution, known as PM2.5—the primary pollutant that shrouds us during winter inversions and causes serious health problems. Scientists have been working on this issue since 2006 when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lowered the allowable daily average of fine particles from 65 micrograms per cubic meter of air to 35. In 2009, EPA declared parts of Utah—Salt Lake, Provo and Logan—as not meeting the standard. Scientists began work on an air-quality plan known as the “State Implementation Plan.”

The first step was to look at where the pollution is coming from along the Wasatch Front during the winter. DAQ concluded the following from its latest 2014 inventory of sources in Utah, Salt Lake, Davis, and Weber counties: 48 percent vehicles; 13 percent industry; and 39 percent “area sources” like home heating, cooking, paint solvents, etc. (Scientists are now updating the inventory of pollution sources contributing to winter pollution to include the nonattainment areas of Tooele, Cache and Box Elder counties.) That plan called on industry to install cleaner equipment and also included passage of 30-some rules aimed at emission reductions for area sources. As an example, one of those regulations requires that consumer products sold in Utah be formulated to reduce air-polluting components. This step will remove 2,000 tons of pollutants from our air annually.

Yet it’s not enough. Scientists knew it wouldn’t be enough to meet the federal health standard as required by 2015. EPA is now proposing to classify those areas along the Wasatch Front, Tooele, Box Elder and Cache counties as in “serious” nonattainment. That means air-quality scientists are rolling up their sleeves to find additional ways to meet the PM2.5 standard by 2019. We have to submit the plan to EPA by December 31, 2017. And we aren’t waiting around for EPA to tell us that. Technically, EPA hasn’t acted on its “serious” mandate.

Given the seriousness of this, we are not wasting time. DAQ has identified 30 businesses that would potentially fall under a “major source” of pollution, emitting annually 70 tons or more of PM2.5 or precursor pollutant like volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some of those businesses have resubmitted permits that reduce their emissions below that threshold. Others are looking at the feasibility of installing cleaner equipment to reduce emissions.

In the meantime, DEQ wants to hear from the public. What actions have you seen or thought of that EPA would consider? EPA will only consider proposed actions in a SIP if the actions are “permanent,” “quantifiable,” and “enforceable.” That means voluntary strategies that are difficult to enforce would not be acceptable to EPA.

The Communications Office has created a Facebook group, “Air 2019: Utah Air Quality Discussion Group” to facilitate a community dialogue. This is a place where community members can ask questions, suggest ideas, and share information about improving Utah’s air. Join the group to stay up-to-date on the latest news and provide input in the rulemaking and planning process. After all, we all want clean air.

Donna SpanglerI 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/news. You can follow me on Twitter @deqdonna

This entry was originally published on March 6th, 2017 and posted in news.

Utah Clean Cities Fuels National Discussion on Clean Transportation

By Tammie Bostick-Cooper, Guest Blogger, Utah Clean Cities

DEQ invites guest bloggers to share their thoughts on issues that impact our environment. We appreciate their insights and the opportunity to broaden the conversation with others in the community.

The Energy Independence Summit was an opportunity for Utha Clean Cities to showcase Utah's success with alternative-fuel vehicles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each year, the Energy Independence Summit hosts various Clean Cities organizations and their stakeholders for a week of congressional networking and education. Utah Clean Cities is a familiar presence at this national event and has traditionally received a warm welcome of support from Utah’s six congressional offices and policy leaders in Washington. This year’s visit proved to be one of the most positive to date.

Alternative Fuels Offer Transportation Solutions

Transportation is one of the most important and complex issues facing our world. We simply have to move away from traditional fossil-fuel burning transportation models. If the science around the effects of burning fossil fuels isn’t enough to convince people, then perhaps a look at $150 billion the U.S. sends to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will help. And that sum doesn’t include the money we send to other countries for their oil.

The Energy Independence Summit urged the Senate Finance Committee to include transportation energy as a priority and asked it to extend critical tax incentives for emerging clean transportation. A long-term extension of these important incentives will stabilize growth-orientated tax strategies for clean transportation, decrease our reliance of imported oil, and create American jobs in clean transportation. Utah’s congressional representatives expressed unanimous support for this proposal.

Utah’s alternative-fuel fleets — with their proven, business-model analysis to back up their success — stand as an example for those considering a shift from imported oil to stateside fuel options. The state’s current alternative-fuel portfolio includes natural gas, propane autogas, bio-fuels and electric, all of which are increasingly generated by renewable and cleaner sources. And as we clean up our electric infrastructure, our electric vehicles become exponentially cleaner and will fit the needs of almost every commuter along the Wasatch Front.

For example, lithium-ion batteries are expected to grow from a $3.2 billion to a $24.1 billion global market share and create new technological jobs along with that growth. There are compressed natural gas (CNG) engines that can boast zero emissions at the tail pipe when fueled by renewable CNG — which is exciting news on the heavy-duty side, as they stand to replace large diesel vehicles on a wide scale. American businesses have embraced and want to continue to use our abundance of natural gas. The U.S. is the largest producer of this fuel in the world, and CNG is one of Utah’s most abundant resources.

Utah Leads the Way with Alternative Fuels

It’s exciting to tell Congress about Utah’s enthusiastic adoption of alternative-fueled vehicles. One can’t help but feel proud of Utah! We are incredibly innovative and energy- independent-minded, and our state has led the way with knowledgeable transportation choices. Our capital city, for example, is one of the most progressive transportation frontrunners in the nation. Salt Lake City is already moving smart technology out in to the streets with CNG refuse haulers and hybrid-fleet cars. All-electric parking-enforcement fleets and new EV chargers for public charging are coming soon.

The best part of being DC was meeting young congressional interns like Grace who hail from Utah

With so many compelling success stories, it’s hard to know where to start! Here are a few Utah companies, cities, and universities that have switched to alternative-fuel vehicles and are glad they did:

  • Geneva Rock’s new fleet of CNG cement mixers are 90 percent cleaner than their diesel predecessors.
  • Diamond Rental uses every alternative-fuel option they can with great success.
  • Park City launched six new all-electric Proterra buses during Sundance.
  • Snowbird is exploring the use of alternative fuels and actively embracing ride-reduction options.
  • Utah State University’s SELECT program is undertaking some of the most advanced research on electric transportation in the world.
  • The University of Utah is heavily engaged in extensive research on air quality and is leading the state though its adoption of campus-wide alternative-fueled transportation with EV WAVE and CNG bus routes, EV charging, and congestion mitigation through public transportation.
  • Smaller companies like Canyon Transport see huge returns on their propane shuttles, and they get the job done in heavy-weather conditions when you wouldn’t want to rely on Uber.

Utah Delegation Supports Energy Independence

It was easy to lead the conversation in D.C. about Utah’s air-quality future, including the specter of too many red-air days and people walking around in masks like they lived in Beijing, China. Regardless of what visitors may think of our smoggy air during the winter tourism season, the more important question is, “What about those of us who work, live and raise our families here?” During my visit, every congressional office expressed their support for finding an answer to that question. The Beehive State wants local choices, local fuels and local action for clean air strategies. The road ahead beckons for the widespread and aggressive adoption of alternative vehicles.

Hands were shaken and congressional leaders asked to be more fully involved with these advanced transportation initiatives. They were undeniably impressed with the fact that every dollar pledged to federal tax-incentives created $12 in growth. That certainly isn’t anything anybody wants to stop, and we asked for five more years of these important incentives.

Utah Clean Cities couldn’t be happier to know it has support for alternative fuels from our representatives in Congress.

Interested in purchasing an alternative-fuel vehicle, but not sure where to start? Visit our Utah Clean Cities website for more information about biodiesel, electric, flex-fuel, hydrogen, natural-gas, and propane vehicles. We also have a list of the alternative-fuel fueling/charging locations across the state if you want to explore whether an alternative-fuel vehicle would meet your transportation needs.

I am the Executive Director of Utah Clean Cities. I’m passionate about clean fuels, clean air, and clean strategies. I am a Utah native and graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in organizational communications. Prior to my work with Utah Clean Cities, I was Executive Director for the Family Support Center of the Uintah Basin, co-founder of the most effective rural children’s justice center in Utah, and worked as an early intervention specialist with the Ute Indian Tribe for the Baby Your Baby tribal program.

As the daughter of a petroleum engineer, I lived the life of the boom-and-bust oil-field cycles. My experiences growing up deepened my commitment to preserving the delicate balance of Utah’s beautiful landscape and abundant resources with alternative, stateside fuels that are economically and ecologically sound and sustainable. I am one of the lead partners on the WestSmart grant with Pacificorp, where I will be developing workplace charging, fleet, and community education. I am also developing a program to promote increased consumer awareness of the new EPA vehicle sticker program and collaborating on the development of a Green Fleet program for Utah. I live in Salt Lake City near my two children who are attending Westminster College. Our family continues to contemplate our years spent in the High Uintahs living in a solar-powered, off-the-grid cabin. My best work to date has been as a mother and teacher.

This entry was originally published on February 27th, 2017, updated on February 27th, 2017, and posted in news.

How to Make Public Transportation Work for You

By Jared Fry

Frontrunner train (pictured) is a popular method of public transit for those commuting to Salt Lake

Frontrunner. Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons vxla

My name is Jared Fry, and I commute 100 miles via public transportation every weekday. To be honest, the purpose in sharing my story is to help promote the use of public transportation and help improve air quality in Utah. My wife, Amy, and I moved to Utah County in October 2015 from Silverdale, Washington. We decided to make the move to pursue our education and employment opportunities. Before we could make the move, we had to sell our car. Being left without a car, we didn’t know how we would get around. Fortunately, we are living, at least temporarily, with Amy’s parents and have close access to the bus system. On the day we moved in, we purchased Utah Transit Authority (UTA) FAREPAY cards from Macey’s, and I have been using mine ever since.

I used the FAREPAY card for most of my transportation until April 2016 when I switched jobs to work for the Department of Environmental Quality’s Utah Division of Air Quality. I was given an Eco Pass to help with my transportation needs. It was perfect for my long commute. It allowed me to get to work and back with very little trouble. By using public transportation, I’ve been able to bypass highway traffic, congestion, road work, and accidents.

In 2016, we purchased a house in Springville, Utah. Amy’s parents have fallen on hard times, and, as a turn of events, are living with us in the new house. We still don’t have a car of our own, but it hasn’t been much of an issue. We worked out a system to coordinate the use of my in-law’s car and public transportation. As a result, I’ve been routinely using UTA for nearly 1.5 years. It may seem tedious to many, but it has been a pleasant experience for me.

Author Jared Fry sometimes sleeps on public transit. In this photo, Santa took a selfie with a sleeping Jared.

Santa and me on the train. “He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake…”

While commuting on the FrontRunner from the Provo Central Station to North Temple in Salt Lake City, I’ve met many kind people. Whether it is the train host making his or her rounds or the passengers sitting nearby, I’ve made a few friends that I wouldn’t have otherwise. On one occasion during December, a UTA employee was dressed as Santa Claus to get his picture taken while promoting public transportation. I hadn’t thought much of it considering it was early in the morning. I dosed off while listening to my music and woke up to find him sitting near me with the photographer close by. They happened to take a picture while I was getting my routine snooze. It wasn’t a great picture, but it sure made for some fun conversations.

The way I use the UTA website to plan my trips is by using their Trip Planner or by viewing the schedules of the bus, train, and light rail. It is pretty simple when you know the address of where you want to go.

In the spirit of clean air, DEQ joined in the Clear the Air Challenge. It was easy for me to participate considering I was taking public transportation. After logging the trips online, I was able to see that my small sacrifice was beneficial for the air. For those who are interested in the technical aspect of calculating emissions from their vehicles, visit Fueleconomy.gov and Dieselnet.com.  To calculate the emissions you can save by consolidating trips or using public transportation, go to cleartheairchallenge.org.

Now I do have to put in a word for those who don’t benefit from the use of public transportation on a daily basis. To get the most out of public transportation, it does depend a little bit on where you live. Some people live so close to their work or destination that it isn’t always a logical choice to take public transportation. However, for those who do long commutes, this is worth it. I’ve taken some time to see how expensive it would be to commute from Springville to Salt Lake City, and I felt that even with a gently used car, the overall cost would be too great. I hope that companies will promote public transportation for their employees.

The Division of Air Quality is hosting the second installment of its Employer-Based Trip Reduction (EBTR) Webinar Series on March 30, 2017, from 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. Tickets for this free event are available at Eventbrite. The webinar, available in-person and online, will explore UTA’s Vanpooling and public transportation ECO Pass programs. Employers can learn about the benefits of these programs and how their employees can take advantage of them.

I am an Office Tech II in the Division of Air Quality. I received my General Associate’s degree from Olympic College in Bremerton, Washington, and am currently in the BYU-Idaho Pathways online program. I enjoy reading fantasy, particularly Terry Pratchett and David Eddings, as well as non-fiction philosophical books. I enjoy playing Pathfinder with my wife Amy and my brothers, building computers, watching Korean and Japanese TV shows, and trap shooting. I’ve been playing the piano for over 17 years, but I’m still not great at it. I also have two cats. 

 

 

This entry was originally published on February 21st, 2017, updated on February 21st, 2017, and posted in news.

EPA Scientists Join Utah DEQ in PM2.5 Study

By Ann Brown and Karen Stewart, Guest Bloggers

DEQ invites guest bloggers to share their thoughts on issues that impact our environment. We appreciate their insights and the opportunity to broaden the conversation with others in the community.

Winter in Utah brings to mind crystal clear blue skies, snow-capped mountains, and a long ski season. But during the winter in Utah’s northern valleys, cold air inversions trap pollution emitted from multiple sources, including vehicles, industry, and agriculture. This allows for the mixing of atmospheric chemicals that leads to the formation of PM2.5, which is harmful to health at high levels.

The area’s more than two million residents experience levels that exceed air quality standards an average of 18 days during the winter. It has contributed to a 42 percent higher rate of emergency room visits for asthma and a 4.5 percent increase in the risk for coronary events like heart attacks.

Interior of the Twin Otter shows the air-monitoring equipment for measuring pollutant levels aloft to learn more about the chemical reactions that cause PM2.5.

The Twin Otter filled with air-quality monitoring equipment. Photo credit: Ale Franchin

Last month, EPA scientists packed up their research trailer with air monitoring instruments and traveled to Utah to assist in determining how to solve the area’s air pollution problem. They are participating in the Utah Winter Fine Particle Study, one of the most comprehensive efforts to date to analyze the area’s pollutants and determine the chemical processes in the atmosphere that lead to the formation of PM2.5. The study is being conducted by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and other research organizations.

EPA and its partners in the study are taking daily measurements of air pollutants in three valleys using sophisticated ground-based instruments and remote sensing monitors. EPA scientists are providing their expertise in air quality measurement and have developed new and advanced technology to better monitor air pollutants. At the same time, NOAA’s research aircraft is flying over the region to measure air pollutants in the upper atmosphere.

The study will help to identify key emission sources and evaluate other factors—such as meteorology, geography, snow cover, and time of day—that may play a role in the formation of PM2.5. Once data is collected, Utah can use the information to determine the most effective strategies to reduce PM2.5 levels during the winter months and improve air quality for public health. The study is also expected to help other states with similar mountain valleys make decisions on how to protect air quality for their residents.

Researchers for the Winter PM2.5 study stand in front of the Twin Otter plane

UWFPS 2017 participants with the Twin Otter at the Salt Lake International Airport. Photo credit: Steve Brown

For more information about the Utah Winter Fine Particulate Study, visit the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) webpages.

Ann Brown and Karen Stewart

Ann Brown is the communications lead for EPA’s Air, Climate, and Energy Research Program. Karen Stewart is an Oak Ridge Associated University contractor with EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory.

This entry was originally published on February 13th, 2017 and posted in news.