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Planning, Preparation Help DEQ Keep Tabs on HABs

By Suzan Tahir

Utah Lake HAB

Utah Lake algal bloom 2017

Some of you might have heard about harmful algal blooms (HABs), and some of you might not…yet. But HABs are happening nationwide, mostly in the warm summer months.

As you know, we have trillions of bacteria (good bacteria and bad bacteria) living in our gut (gastrointestinal tract), and they coexist until something upsets the balance, like bad milk. We can use the same simple analogy for HAB events. Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) are simple organisms that live in the sea and freshwater bodies. Good and bad cyanobacteria live in a balance with other aquatic organisms and do not over-compete until something disturbs their balance, such as:

  • Lots of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus)
  • Calm and stagnant water column conditions
  • Warm water-column temperatures

That is when a small percentage of the “bad” cyanobacteria grow out of control, creating green scum on the water and sometimes producing toxins that can harm people and their pets. The question now becomes: Do we have them here in Utah? Sadly, yes! Utah Lake and Scofield Reservoir are two of the larger waterbodies that experienced HAB events in 2016, and smaller lakes, ponds, and streams experienced blooms as well.

How can we be more prepared and aware?

Over the past few years, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)’s Division of Water Quality (DWQ) has been very proactive in finding ways to forecast and identify HAB events. Just like the air-quality monitoring network, DWQ’s early HAB forecasting approach combines real-time monitoring with meteorological data and sample analysis. How? We use a two-prong approach:

  • Collection of phytoplankton samples and cyanotoxin testing for HABs
  • Real-time ambient water-quality forecast for HABs using sondes (measuring devices)

DWQ currently uses a CB-450 Data Buoy system (water-quality monitoring network) for early HAB forecasting in Utah Lake, Scofield Reservoir, and Deer Creek Reservoir.

HABs forecasting system

Utah HAB Network

Click on image to go to real time data on the Utah HAB Network

The data buoy system in Utah Lake is deployed at three different sites around the lake. DWQ selected these locations using the best available information to identify areas with the greatest potential for HABs. Because wind plays a very important role in the movement of blooms around Utah Lake, these sites are distributed along the east side of the lake to capture that movement.

Cyanobacteria growth and bloom production are dependent upon a number of factors, from temperature to nutrient levels in the water. The DWQ HAB Network is equipped with sensors that measure a range of water-quality parameters, including turbidity, dissolved oxygen, pH, specific conductivity, water temperature, chlorophyll a, and phycocyanin. In combination, these parameters indicate and identify changes in cyanobacteria production and can act as an “early warning system” for blooms. The HAB Network streams this information every 15 minutes, providing us with real-time, ambient water-quality data.

Just like a weather forecast, when this early-HAB forecasting system is coupled with satellite imagery and field observations, it helps us identify where the HAB is, how big it is, and where it’s headed.

HABs information and education

However, conducting good science is not our only goal. We are here for you! Serving the public by providing exceptional service is one of our core values. DWQ works hard to protect and educate the public about HABs.

Because of its proximity to the Wasatch Front, Utah Lake may be one of the most frequently used waterbodies for recreational activities such as fishing, boating, water skiing, and swimming. Other lakes and reservoirs around the state are also popular spots for water-based fun. As we saw last summer, some of these places can also experience algal blooms.

We want people to be aware and cautious if the waterbody they use for their recreational activities looks too green, or looks and smells different. It is important to note that not all green areas have harmful algal blooms. The Utah Department of Health has compiled a photo gallery to help you identify possible HABs, but if you’re in doubt, it is better to be cautious and avoid such areas for your own safety. Be sure to obey posted advisories in areas that have tested high for cyanobacteria concentration or toxins.

DEQ’s HABs webpage provides a wealth of important information, including updates on recent HABs events, an FAQ sheet, and answers to your questions about the health effects of HABs, how to avoid exposure, and what to do if you are exposed or suspect a bloom.

HABs collaboration

Sampling for HABs in Utah Lake

Sampling Utah Lake

One of our primary field efforts is to encourage, initiate, and maintain collaborations and coordination with other agencies and organizations. We work together on HABs response and communications with a variety of state and local agencies to make sure anyone who might be affected by a bloom — whether it’s the boater recreating on a lake or the rancher delivering water to his cattle — has accurate, up-to-date information.

We are also teaming with other scientific groups to gather information. These kinds of collaborations eliminate duplication of efforts and result in better science. In late June 2017, DWQ initiated a collaborative effort with Associate Professor Zachary Aanderud and members of his laboratory at Brigham Young University (BYU). Dr. Aanderud’s team volunteered to monitor the three CB-450 Data Buoy sites on DWQ’s behalf, collecting the following samples on weekly basis to confirm the data we’re receiving from the buoy reflects actual conditions for:

Limited resources make it difficult for DWQ to collect samples more frequently than our scheduled once-a month sampling, even during a bloom. The BYU team’s work enhances and supplements DWQ’s sampling to ensure that we have the most comprehensive data possible.

Data buoys are part of the Utah Lake HABs Network

One of three data buoys in Utah Lake

HABs and you

We work hard to identify HABs to protect you, your family, and your animals from the adverse health effect of these blooms. But we can’t be everywhere, so we can always use your help! Call us if you suspect a bloom, and when in doubt, avoid any contact with water and scums that appear to experiencing an algal bloom. We want you to have a safe and fun summer recreating on our beautiful lakes and streams!

If you suspect a harmful algal bloom, please call the 24-hour DEQ Spill Line at 801-536-4123. If you believe you’re experiencing symptoms form exposure, contact the Utah Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222. Pet owners concerned about their animals should contact their veterinarian. Visit habs.utah.gov for updates, advisories, and information.

Suzan Tahir

In 2003, I received my Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering degree from Middle East Technical University (Ankara, Turkey). In 2007, I received my Master of Science degree from Bradley University, Illinois. In 2008, I moved to Utah and have been with DEQ/DWQ for almost seven years now. Currently, I am working towards my PhD degree at Utah State University. If I do not travel and drive for my work, I normally like to drive and take trips to enjoy nature, cultures, cities, and wilderness. I also have a very deep passion for hiking, white water rafting, rock climbing, backpacking, scuba diving, Huskies, and Akitas. I was born and raised in Bulgaria, have lived in different countries, and currently live in Salt Lake City. I love my job a lot, because we are like a huge family helping and supporting each other and our communities!

This entry was originally published on July 17th, 2017 and posted in news.

HeatRisk Initiative Helps You Keep Your Cool When Temps Rise

By Royal Delegge, Guest Blogger

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.

HeatRisk Map

Click on map for a larger view

Heat is responsible for more deaths in the United States annually than any other weather phenomenon. Given this fact, and the prediction of more heat events (on average) in the future, people need to be aware of the dangers associated with extreme heat and be prepared to take steps to protect themselves and to promote community safety and health during heat events.

That’s why the National Weather Service (NWS) has developed a tool called the HeatRisk forecast to help individuals address heat risks and prepare for heat waves. The forecast provides a quick view of the heat-risk potential over the upcoming seven days. The heat risk is portrayed in a numeric and color scale similar to the Air Quality Index. The forecast provides a daily value that indicates the approximate level of heat risk for any location along with a list of those groups most at risk. The HeatRisk initiative is being tested experimentally in California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona over the next year.

Individuals can take specific actions that will help to mitigate the effects of heat and lower the risk of heat stress or even heat stroke:

  • Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty. In a very dry climate such as Utah’s, individuals may not always recognize that they are becoming dehydrated.
  • Take care to never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles, even for a few minutes.
  • Stay indoors, in cooler conditions, as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun.
  • Check on family, friends, and neighbors who do not have air conditioning and who spend much of their time alone to assure that they are keeping safe.
  • Go to a cooling center or shelter if you lack access to a cool environment or lose power during periods of extreme heat.

If you or your pets spend time outdoors during high heat, take the following precautions:

  • Check on your pets frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat.
  • Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothes that cover as much skin as possible. Avoid dark colors because they absorb more of the sun’s energy.
  • Protect your face and head by wearing sunblock and a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Postpone outdoor games and activities until cooler periods of the day.
  • Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day if you work outside. Use a buddy system to monitor coworkers when working in extreme heat and take frequent breaks.

Certain groups are more susceptible to heat effects and need closer attention than the rest of the population:

  • Older adults
  • Infants and young children
  • People with chronic heart or lung problems
  • People with disabilities
  • Overweight persons
  • Those who work outdoors or in hot settings
  • Users of some medications, especially those taken for mental disorders, movement disorders, allergies, depression, and heart or circulatory problems
  • People who are socially isolated and may not know when or how to cool off – or when to call for help

Keep your summer safe and enjoyable by following these precautions and checking the HeatRisk forecast for further information during high-heat periods.

Prepare for upcoming heat events and protect heat-sensitive individuals by visiting the HeatRisk webpage for continuously available heat-risk guidance for your area. Check out the NWS- Salt Lake office’s website for official heat warnings, watches, or advisories. If you live in Salt Lake County and need to find a place to cool off, check out the county surveyor’s online tool get a list of cooling centers near you.

I have served as Environmental Health Director for the Salt Lake County Health Department since August 1999. Previously, I served as Director of Environmental Health for the Winnebago County Health Department in Rockford, Illinois and before that held various positions at the DuPage County Health Department in the Chicago metropolitan area. I have also worked for more than six years as an Adjunct Professor of Public Health teaching courses in the School of Nursing and Health Sciences’ Master of Public Health program at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. I currently serve on the Boards of the Utah Climate Action Network, Wasatch Clean Air Network and am the current Chair of the Board of Trustees and CEO for the Utah Clean Cities Coalition and also Chair of the Utah Food Safety Committee for public health.

 

This entry was originally published on July 10th, 2017 and posted in news.

Breathtaking Fireworks Can Really Take Your Breath Away

By DEQ Communications Office

Fireworks are beautiful, but they can harm air quality.

Fireworks are beautiful, but they can harm air quality. Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons Bring Back Words

For many people, the Fourth of July wouldn’t BE the Fourth of July without fireworks. But these pyrotechnic displays also produce high concentrations of smoke and particulates (PM) that can harm our air quality and pose a risk to individuals who are sensitive to particulate pollution. And professional displays aren’t the only source of PM pollution — smaller gatherings of neighbors or families lighting fireworks can also contribute to a decrease in an area’s short-term air quality and pose particular health risks to those living nearby.

Fireworks

Fireworks smoke is largely composed of two types of particulate matter: course particulates (PM10) and fine particulates (PM2.5). Short-term exposure to fine particle pollution can pose health concerns, particularly for children, older adults, and those with respiratory conditions. This smoke can aggravate lung disease, cause asthma attacks and acute bronchitis, and may also increase susceptibility to respiratory infections. In people with heart disease, short-term exposures have been linked to heart attacks and arrhythmias.

Particulates aren’t the only pollutants linked to fireworks. From the sulfur and potassium in the gunpowder that powers them to the heavy metals that provide the explosions of color, fireworks contain a potent blend of toxic compounds. Although perchlorate, an oxidizer that fuels the reaction, tends to dissipate during combustion, remnants can still be found on the soil and water after fireworks shows. Heavy metals supply the colors we associate with fireworks shows: barium for glistening greens, lithium and strontium compounds for bursts of red, copper for flashes of blue, and aluminum for dazzling white. These metals can be inhaled or make their way into the water and soil. While one fireworks display is unlikely to cause lasting health effects, repeated exposure can be problematic.

Air-monitoring data shows a massive spike in PM2.5 levels from July 4 fireworks.

Air-monitoring data shows a massive spike in PM2.5 levels from July 4 fireworks. Click on chart for a larger view.

Division of Air Quality (DAQ) monitors consistently show extremely high short-term concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 associated with fireworks. In fact, Ogden City’s worst air day doesn’t occur in the winter — it happens on July 4, when particulate concentrations can jump to 20 times higher than normal. These readings are in line with research on the impacts fireworks have on air quality nationwide. A 2015 study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) quantified the spike in fine particulate matter on July 4 using observations from 315 U.S. air-quality monitoring sites over a 14-year period. The research showed that the average concentrations of particulates over the 24-hour period beginning at 8 p.m. on July 4 were 42 percent greater than on the days before and after the holiday.

While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allow states to classify air-quality exceedances from fireworks as exceptional events for  regulatory reporting purposes, high particulate levels still impact health over the short-term. These health impacts increase if elevated ozone levels or wildfire smoke are also present.

DAQ recommends that individuals affected by fine particulate pollution avoid fireworks displays or view them from a safe distance. Those who are particularly sensitive may want to stay indoors, especially during the evening, and close the windows so that indoor air is not affected.

Wildfires

This summer, as in previous summers, fireworks pose an additional threat to air quality: wildfires. Wildfire smoke is composed of a complex mixture of gases, fine particles, and water vapor that form when organic matter burns. Particulates from smoke are a mixture of solid particles—pieces of wood and other burning solids—and liquid droplets. As with fireworks smoke, the biggest health threat from wildfire smoke comes from fine particles.

Tinder-dry conditions across Utah mean one errant spark from an aerial or a fountain could set acres of wildlands on fire. Governor Herbert has issued personal firework bans or restrictions for unincorporated areas of the state, and many communities have followed suit.

We want everybody to have a safe and healthy Fourth of July. Consider alternative ways to celebrate the holidays with your family and friends and be mindful of the impacts fireworks have on the air we all breathe.

We provide hourly air-quality monitoring, a three-day action forecast, and health forecast on our website and our UtahAir app, available for free for Apple and Android mobile devices. For up-to-date information on the air-quality impacts from wildfires, visit Utah Fire Info or the NOAA website for real-time forecasts on the emissions and smoke transport from wildfires in Utah and neighboring states.

 

 

 

This entry was originally published on July 3rd, 2017 and posted in news.

DEQ, Schools Partner to Keep Kids Safe from Lead in Drinking Water

By Marie E. Owens

Lead in schools

Click on image for larger view

We have all heard about the lead contamination in Flint, Michigan’s drinking water. Some of you may have wondered if anything like this could happen here in Utah. While the natural water chemistry in Michigan is different than we have here, the major cause of that city’s problem was a combination of corrosive water and a neglected, poorly funded drinking-water infrastructure. We monitor these things closely here in Utah.

But as tragic as the situation has been for the population of Flint, it reminds us all how delicate the balance between clean water and contaminated water can be. That’s why the Division of Drinking Water (DDW), in collaboration with the Utah Department of Health and Utah school districts, is taking proactive steps to ensure schoolchildren aren’t exposed to elevated levels of lead in the drinking water at their schools.

One of our highest priorities is protecting children from the negative effects of lead exposure. Because children’s nervous systems are still developing, they are more susceptible to the harmful health effects of lead. Public water systems have been sampling for lead in drinking water since the Lead and Copper Rule was enacted in 1991. Sampling results have shown that the vast majority of our water is well below the action limit set by EPA.

But the action limit for lead in drinking water is an indicator of how corrosive the water is on pipes and faucets; it’s not a health-based limit like many other drinking water standards. And while this rule requires water systems to sample in homes within their service area, federal law does not require testing of drinking water in schools. This has left us with no data to determine the possible exposure levels in our schools.

Since children spend more waking hours at school than at home, we feel it is important to confirm the risk of exposure from lead in the drinking water in schools. We have no reason to believe that we will find anything different than what we have found in Utah homes. But science tells us the possibility exists, and the risk of not knowing, no matter how small, is just too high for our children.

Drinking water analysis at the Jordan Valley lab.

Drinking water analysis at the Jordan Valley lab

That’s why DDW is rolling out a program to encourage every school in Utah to sample their drinking water for lead within the year. Since we don’t regulate school districts, this is an entirely voluntary partnership between the State, public water suppliers, local health departments, school districts, and other stakeholders. Six school districts have either agreed to collect samples or have already collected samples. Additional school districts will begin testing in the fall.

We are recommending that every school collect a sample from a drinking fountain and the cafeteria. In addition, we’re offering schools a wide range of  technical resources on our website, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) “3 T’s — Training, Testing, Telling” guidance to helps schools develop a sampling/testing plan and implement proper sampling procedures. We’ve also produced a flyer with simple follow-up steps schools can take if sample results show elevated levels of leads. Schools can also reach out to their local health departments, public water systems, or the Rural Water Association of Utah for individualized instruction or support with in-school sampling.

Although DDW won’t be conducting the sampling, we will be collecting, storing, analyzing, and interpreting the test data. We will use the data to identify schools with elevated lead levels as well as affected areas within the school. Most importantly, we will make this information available to school districts and the public once we receive and confirm sampling results.

Our hope is to collect data throughout the state so we can say with confidence that our children are safe. If any of the samples show elevated levels of lead, further investigation and testing can determine the extent of the problem and help schools put interim or permanent remedies in place quickly.

We care about Utah’s schoolchildren, which is why we’ve taken this proactive approach. We’re proud to be leading this effort and appreciative of all the support we’ve received from school districts, local health departments, public water systems, and the Rural Water Association of Utah. We will continue to do everything we can to safeguard our children’s health by ensuring their school’s drinking water is lead-free.

I became the Director of Drinking Water in January 2017. I 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 fulltime for Metro as a Process Engineer. From there, I moved to Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District as their Water Quality Division Manager. 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 love everything about water and love interacting with the people who share this passion.  

 

 

This entry was originally published on June 26th, 2017, updated on June 26th, 2017, and posted in news.

New Technical Center Good News for DEQ, the Environment

By Brad Johnson

Architect's rendering of the new technical building

Architect’s rendering of the new technical building

Reliable, science-based information is essential to ensuring the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) makes the best possible decisions and fulfills its mission to safeguard Utah’s air, land, and water. We use the data we collect to protect and inform the public, verify compliance with regulatory standards, and collaborate with local and national universities and partner agencies on research projects. To make sure we have quality data, we need a quality facility to conduct our analytical work and store our equipment. So you can imagine how excited we are about the upcoming construction of a new Technical Center that will allow us to do all that and more.

Our current air-monitoring facility, located in West Valley City, is housed in a retrofitted warehouse not designed for laboratory use. Temperature and humidity control is crucial to ensuring our scientists can collect accurate data, and the conditions at this location present our staff with constant challenges. We have some safety and security concerns with the current facility, and we lease rather than own the building. Our air-monitoring scientists must drive back and forth between the facility and our office — not optimal when we’re trying to reduce employee trips and emissions to improve air quality.

Current Air Monitoring Center

Current Air Monitoring Center

We knew we needed to upgrade our facilities for some time, but receiving the approval to construct a new building is a lengthy process. We approached the Utah State Building Board almost ten years ago, and it took many more years — and many more proposals — before our project rose to the top of the list. In 2015, the Utah State Legislature appropriated $6 million for the design and construction of a technical support center that will be located on state-owned land just around the corner from our office.

The new, 21,500-square-foot building will contain multiple labs, storage for scientific equipment and vehicles/boats, and areas for sample preparation and analytical work. The main occupants will be air-quality scientists from our Air Monitoring Center, but all five divisions have spaces designated for equipment storage and ancillary lab work.

Air-quality scientists will have new warehouse space to build and repair mobile monitoring stations as well as separate labs for analyzing particulate and gaseous contaminants. Most importantly, they will have a “filter room” stabilized for temperature and humidity to analyze air-quality filters, analysis that is critical to fulfilling our statutory responsibility to meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and track our progress in reducing pollution.

Vacant lot that is the future site of the DEQ Technical Center

Future site of the DEQ Technical Center

While the other four divisions use the Utah Public Health Lab to test and analyze the majority of their samples, they will now have space for sampling preparation and limited analysis. The Division of Water Quality (DWQ) moved to an improved facility a few blocks away from the DEQ offices seven years ago, but even water-quality scientists will benefit from the tech center’s amenities. The Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control (WMRC) will have a lab with small calibration and reference sources to calibrate instruments to verify they are functioning properly before use. The Division of Drinking Water (DDW) and Division of Environmental Response and Remediation (DERR) will also have space to store their sampling equipment.

In many ways, the new building exemplifies DEQ’s values:

Exceptional customer service

Consolidation of our activities into one building allows us to be more responsive to the public and regulated community.

Commitment to employees

New lab facilities improve the efficiency and ease with which our employees do their work and eliminate a time-consuming commute to an offsite facility.

Credibility and trust

State-of-the-art lab labs ensure the accuracy of our internal testing and analysis, which in turn improves our protection of public health and the environment.

Continuous improvement

Centralized space that meets the needs of all our divisions streamlines our work, reduces travel time to outside facilities, and protects valuable scientific equipment.

The final design for the facility will be completed later this summer. Representatives from all five divisions have been involved in the planning and design to ensure the new building meets everybody’s needs. We plan to go out for bid as soon the design is finalized and award a contract in September, with construction set to commence soon after that. We anticipate the building will be completed by December 2018.

We will keep you updated on the changes happening at DEQ’s Technical Center, changes that will ensure the quality of the data we collect and the accuracy of our science-based decisions so we fulfill our commitment to you and your family to safeguard our state’s air, land, and water.

I started my career as a scientist in the Hazardous Waste Program in 1983. Since then I have worked in Superfund, Underground Tanks, Federal Facilities, Emergency Response, Voluntary Cleanup and a few other miscellaneous programs along the way. I am currently Deputy Director of DEQ. I enjoy about anything that can be done outdoors. My wife Annette and I recently spent a few days four wheeling and hiking in the spectacular Bears Ears National Monument. I also enjoy spending time with family and I am the proud father of 5 children, ages 21 – 29, and one granddaughter, age 9 months.

 

This entry was originally published on June 19th, 2017, updated on June 23rd, 2017, and posted in news.

Ozone: Let’s Make “Zero Bad-Air Days” Our Goal this Summer

By Donna Kemp Spangler

School’s out and outdoor activities are in. It’s also the time of the year that the Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) tackles Utah’s other air-quality demon – ozone. And it’s a battle that’s harder to fight.

Unlike the visible winter inversions that trap the fine particulate pollution in the valleys, ozone builds up gradually and is more difficult to see, and predict. It doesn’t have to mean we forget it’s out there. We can’t change the weather, but we can develop healthier air quality habits like driving smarter or less often. We can also avoid idling, use low-polluting products, and airtight gas cans. Why not make “Zero Bad-Air Days” everyone’s goal?

In order to do that, we must first understand the fickle nature of ozone.

Ground-level ozone is created much the same as winter inversion fine particulates. It is not emitted directly in the air, but created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — emissions largely from motor vehicles, but also consumer products, gasoline-powered lawn equipment, and industrial sources. During the summer, these chemicals react with sunlight to create ozone, and as temperatures change throughout the day so do the levels of ozone. Subtle changes can move the ozone needle either above or below the healthy mark – making forecasting much more difficult and often looking more like guesswork.

ozone infographic

Click on infographic for a larger view

A typical hot summer day when the air is stagnant can be the perfect recipe for ozone, when the vehicle exhaust from the morning commute is mixed with the emissions of other activities throughout the day like lawn mowing or idling, to cook up an unhealthy brew that looks something like an overheated bus. Long-term exposure to ozone can be like a sunburn on the lungs. Short term means difficulty in breathing.

Weather has a lot to do with it. So do our choices.

One of the major factors in ozone formation is sunlight. Cloud cover can slow down or turn off the reaction that produces ozone, which makes it pretty difficult to predict those weather events that will influence ozone levels and those that won’t. DAQ’s air quality forecasters will wait until 7 p.m. to make their forecast for the next day’s commute. An unusually calm night with warm temperatures could mean the ozone levels don’t go down as expected. A summer monsoon could clear the pollution out when DAQ had predicted high levels.

When it comes to the public’s health – and DAQ’s predictions take this into account – we prefer to err on the side of caution.  Foul air may or may not be unhealthy at any given time of the day. Specific to ozone, the air quality is generally better in the mornings, so taking advantage of any opportunity to shift outdoor activity to morning hours is a good move. If the forecast is wrong, the only consequence is cleaner air, and it gets us closer to our goal: Zero Bad Air Days.

Want to learn more about forecasting ozone conditions? Check out DEQ’s Facebook page for a Facebook Live chat with Air Quality Monitoring Manager Bo Call at 3 p.m. Thursday, June 15. And always check the daily forecast at airquality.utah.gov for air quality conditions and UCAIR for ways you can help improve Utah’s 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 June 12th, 2017, updated on June 12th, 2017, and posted in news.