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SUCCESS: X-Ray Inspections

By Rusty Lundberg

When you’re sitting in the dental chair, you’re probably more concerned about cavities than the X-rays your dentist uses to detect them. It’s easy to forget that dental and medical X-rays deliver the majority of our exposure to man made radiation. New radiation survey meters used by Division of Radiation Control (DRC) inspectors have shortened the time it takes to check this kind of X-ray inspections equipment, improving operational inefficiencies and safeguarding patients from unnecessary radiation exposure from these procedures.


Original 1970’s X-Ray Survey Equipment

Our X-ray inspection program ensures that facilities with X-ray equipment in Utah have an effective radiation safety program that keeps patient exposure to radiation As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA). Our inspectors make sure that each X-ray unit performs properly and produces high quality images that provide accurate diagnostic information while minimizing exposure.

Back in the 1970’s, the provided us with our original “gold standard” survey equipment. While it provided extremely high-quality results, this survey meter was heavy and bulky, required two separate pieces of equipment, and took considerable time to set up. Our new survey meter is a significantly smaller device that takes five measurements during one exposure—compared with three exposures using two different survey tools to get the same measurements with the old equipment. The shorter set-up time for the new machine also lets us get the first exposure in less than one minute. Total inspection time has been reduced by approximately 20 minutes.

Americans are exposed to more than seven times as much radiation from medical procedures than they were twenty years ago. While this increase in radiation exposure from medical procedures and diagnostics can improve health outcomes, it highlights the need for regular inspections to confirm that doses of radiation are as low as possible. Increased access to healthcare, along with projected population growth in the state, will lead to more diagnostic X-ray procedures, facilities, and X-ray units that will require inspection. Shortening the time to perform inspections will help DRC keep up with this increased need.

X-Ray Imaging

DRC Director Rusty Lundberg holding a new, smaller X-ray survey device.

Under our continuous improvement process, our division is always looking for ways to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our inspection program. We are currently exploring the use of hand-held devices that inspectors can take into the field to fill out inspection reports. This would reduce time spent filling out duplicate forms and give our inspectors more time to answer questions medical professionals may have about their X-ray inspection equipment or precautions they may want to take for sensitive populations.

Want to learn more about medical X-ray imaging? The Food and Drug Administration website provides information about the benefits and risks of X-rays inspections along with questions you can ask your health care provider about the diagnostic and therapeutic use of X-rays. The Health Physics Society offers a Fact Sheet that explains the types of medical procedures that use radiation along with typical doses. Our X-ray staff is always happy to answer your questions about X-ray safety. Give us a call at 801-536-4250.

I am the Director of the Division of Radiation Control and have been a t DEQ for 29 years, most of that time in the Division of MarathonSolid and Hazardous Waste. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in meteorology—probably because I’ve always enjoyed a good summer thunderstorm. I enjoy various outdoor activities such as running, hiking, as well as yard work. I also enjoy an occasional fun run with other family members or spending time together while traveling.


This entry was originally published on July 14th, 2014, updated on December 14th, 2016, and posted in news.

My Own Clear Air Challenge: Riding Transit All Month Long

By Donna Kemp Spangler

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a series of posts—published every Wednesday during July—of what DEQ employees are doing to reduce emissions during the 2014 Clear the Air Challenge.

When FrontRunner arrived in Ogden in 2008, my goal had been to commute from Ogden to my DEQ office in Salt Lake City, using transit at least once a week. The opening of the TRAX extension to the airport a few years later made it faster and more convenient to get to my office from the FrontRunner station. And by and large, my initial goal of once a week has been achieved with minimal effort.

There are the obvious benefits to ditching the car:

  • It saves me about $10 in fuel for each round trip, and,
  • It reduces air pollution (vehicle emissions are the biggest source of air pollution).

I have found it to be an easy choice when the air is especially bad, when weather makes driving treacherous, when my car isn’t running, or when my husband is headed to Salt Lake and we can carpool.

But the reality is that most days I allow riding transit to take a back seat to the convenience of having a ride home at the turn of a key. And given my hectic schedule of meetings, I wonder if it’s even possible to exist in a sprawling community like the Wasatch Front without a vehicle.

It will be an interesting experiment: My personal challenge is to commute not using my car for the entire month of July—and I so love my convertible in the summertime—no exceptions! My colleague, Bob Ford, who oversees DEQ’s asbestos program, is doing the same by parking his car and riding his bike. And as “CleanAirBob” would say, “If Bob can do it, I can do it.”

My experiment is part of the statewide Clear the Air Challenge, a friendly competition sponsored by the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and embraced by Utah Governor Gary Herbert, who has challenged all state agencies to participate.

The Utah Department of Transportation and Utah Department of Health have each challenged DEQ to a competition to see which department can save the most trips and with the greatest reduction in commuter miles.

To my friends at UDOT and the Health Department I say give it your best shot. DEQ welcomes the challenge.

Based on statistics from last year’s challenge, DEQ employees collectively recorded nearly 40,500 total miles in reduced commuter miles—a total that accounts for almost half of the all miles saved by employees with 16 state agencies participating. And we are one of the smallest agencies in the state in terms of employees.

This year, we all will be recording our progress with a new interface that makes it easier for everyone to track the miles they have saved on their mobile devices or desktop computers. This technology is available to all Utahns, thanks to a $25,000 grant from Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR).

Mass TransitThe biggest benefit from the challenge will be improved air quality by reducing air pollution through fewer commuter trips each day. And we hope for a heightened awareness that each and every commuter can make choices that will collectively improve the air we breathe.

DEQ is the reigning champions of the challenge. Care to take us on? Register for the 2014 Clear the Air Challenge, if you haven’t done so yet, and discover how you can make a difference. Come back to this blog next month and find out how I did.

I am the Communications Director for DEQ and write a monthly blog.

This entry was originally published on July 9th, 2014, updated on August 10th, 2017, and posted in news.

Water Quality: Holding the line on Nutrient Pollution

By John Mackey

Nutrient Pollution

Example of a blue-green algal bloom.

So what is it about nutrients in our water that’s such a big deal? The waters I recreate in aren’t green and soupy; in fact, they look pretty good and have plenty of fish. If I opened the tap and my water was cloudy or had a peculiar smell, I would be pretty surprised. Or if I saw fish belly-up all over the place, I’d be concerned. But that can’t happen here, right?

Fact is it’s not always easy to see water pollution or its effects. Nutrient pollution is becoming a big problem because more and more nitrogen and phosphorous are making their way into our water every day. These nutrients come from lots of places—from our toilets, our farmlands, and our green, fertilized lawns—and the more of us there are, the more nutrients end up in the water. Too many nutrients make the algae in the water grow faster, and pretty soon you can have algal blooms that kill fish, make the water taste and smell bad, or even release toxins that can make people and animals sick.

So how does the Division of Water Quality (DWQ) plan to hold the line on nutrient pollution when Utah is growing more every day? Well, we look at what we’ve done in the past and find ways to avoid problems in the future.

Thirty years ago, Deer Creek Reservoir, which provides water to most of the Wasatch Front water suppliers, was facing some serious algal blooms. The big water purveyors, like Salt Lake City, said “Hey, this is a big problem because these algae blooms are adding a lot of taste and odor to our water.” DWQ and the cities put together a plan that re-routed the discharge from the Heber City wastewater treatment plant to farmland where it could be used to grow alfalfa.

Today, we’re seeing the same algae-related problems in Rockport and Echo Reservoirs. Our Water

Quality Board just voted to put a nutrient pollution plan in place to reduce nutrients in the reservoirs by 35 percent. Reducing wastewater discharges is a big part of this plan. The Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District (SBWRD) will invest about $15 million in upgrades to control the discharge of nutrients from its treatment system. If the new system controls and watershed management strategies work as planned, SBWRD’s investment is expected to permanently solve nutrient-related problems in the reservoirs.

Thirty years ago, getting Heber’s waste out of the reservoir helped hold the line on pollution in Deer Creek. We are even better prepared today, with better science and better control technologies. We know that we need to deal with nutrient problems sooner rather than later and that taking moderate steps now will give us time to come up with new technologies and management approaches that will do more than just “hold the line.” Working together, we can protect our waters over the long term at a reasonable cost. And that’s in everybody’s best interests.

You can learn more about the ways DWQ is addressing nutrient pollution in Utah by checking out our Nutrients web page. Want to know how you can help? Go to EPA’s Nutrient Pollution webpage, where you can find tips on what you can do in your home, your yard, and your community to reduce nutrient pollution.

I am a staff engineer from the engineering section at the Division of Water Quality. I like to fish and swim in really cold water, and I love nutrients—but mostly for growing vegetables.


This entry was originally published on July 7th, 2014, updated on August 10th, 2017, and posted in news.

Clear the Air: Green Up My Yard

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of posts—published every Wednesday during July—of what DEQ employees are doing to reduce emissions during the 2014 Clear the Air Challenge.

By Bryce Bird

I enjoy a green yard and a productive garden. Unfortunately, when I water and add fertilizer some of the “green” starts moving beyond the boarders Green Yardthat I have established. Many years ago I discovered the perfect tool to keep the green in the right places. The growing shoots and stems were no match for the string trimmer that returned the crisp edges to the landscape.

I figured that the weekly chore of pulling out the string trimmer, filling (and spilling) from the separate container of gasoline mixed with precisely measured 2-cycle oil, inserting the ear plugs, priming the carburetor, adjusting the choke and pulling a few, too many times until the noisy, smelly, smoky, leaky machine jumped to life was a necessary operation in order to keep the yard green and in shape. That is in the past. One day last summer, the old plastic connector for the fuel line running from the tank to the engine broke; emptying the contents down the back of my leg and onto the grass.

EPA maintains a website that details some of the advances in small engine technology to reduce emissions while doing the same amount of work: EPA

Older technology (pre-2010) small 2-cycle engines emit as much as 70 percent more hydrocarbons (VOC) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) than the latest models. Per hour of operation, the old 2-cycle engines are 10-times more polluting than the average new passenger vehicles. I could drive several hundred miles with the same emissions as one hour of operating the string trimmer. Unlike the tailpipe of my car, the exhaust from the string trimmer was expelled about 2-feet from the entrance to my respiratory system. With cars getting cleaner, EPA estimates that small engines now account for 10 percent of the total emissions (VOC + NOx) from all internal spark engines responsible for the formation of summer smog.

For almost any application there are now alternatives to the old 2-cycle engines.

With the demise of my old trimmer, my wife jumped on the opportunity to visit the local home and garden store. She soon returned with our new 40-volt, battery powered string trimmer. In contrast to the old one, it is quiet, clean and able to trim the entire yard in one charge. The odors, smoke and spills are eliminated. Setting the battery on the charger is much simpler than mixing and maintaining the mixed fuel container. The yard is a little greener and I am happy with my first move to a clean and efficient alternative to the 2-cycle engine.

This month’s Clear the Air Challenge is all about reducing emissions—specifically in how we travel—thatClear the Air cause air pollution. There are also other ways to reduce emissions that create air pollution: Consider cleaner, low-emission technologies for maintaining your lawn. Visit EPA’s website for more information.

Bryce Bird is the Director of the Utah Division of Air Quality. When not at work, Bryce spends many summer evenings performing with the Utah National Guard’s 23rd Army Band at community concerts throughout the state.

This entry was originally published on July 2nd, 2014, updated on April 7th, 2017, and posted in news.

Emissions Alert: our “Check Engine” Light Is Trying to Tell You Something

By Mat Carlile

We all want to keep our cars running well and our emissions low, particularly during the summer ozone
and winter PM2.5 seasons. If your vehicle was built in 1996 or later, you get some extra help keeping your emissions in check from the on-board diagnostics (OBD) system that came with your car. The OBD system monitors the performance of your engine components. If your Check Engine light comes on and stays on, the computer in your car is telling you that your emissions controls aren’t working properly and may need to be repaired.

The Summit County Health Department has teamed with the Division of Air Quality on an Emissions Awareness campaign to let people know that the light on their dash is telling them there’s a problem with their car’s emission controls. The Health Department has been spreading the word in the community through social media, public service announcements, radio interviews, mailers, fliers and bookmarks.

Repairs for malfunctions can range from tightening or replacing your gas cap to taking your car to a qualified mechanic for service. Most repair shops (and some auto parts stores) have a small, hand-held scanning tool available that they connect to your vehicle’s computer—usually located under the dashboard—to download information that can diagnose the problem. The information from the OBD system helps mechanics identify the malfunction and the kind of repair that’s needed.

Some areas of Utah have mandatory vehicle emissions inspection and maintenance (I/M) programs that periodically test vehicles to ensure that they are operating as designed. If the test identifies a problem with a particular vehicle, the owner must repair the vehicle before it can pass.

If your check engine light comes on, don’t wait until your vehicle inspection rolls around to fix it. Every day you drive your car with your Check Engine light on, you’re adding pollutants to the air we breathe and you may be causing damage to your vehicle that could result in even more costly repairs down the road.

To learn more about the benefits of OBD systems, warranty coverage for your emissions-control system, and how good car care can keep our air clean, check out the EPA’s OBD web page.

Check Engine LightI have worked with the Utah Division of Air Quality for 10 years. I have a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Brigham Young University. My wife Carrie and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in June. We have four children. I love reading, investigating history, traveling, and playing basketball, volleyball, football and ultimate Frisbee.

This entry was originally published on June 30th, 2014, updated on August 10th, 2017, and posted in news.

Reduce Emissions – Improve Air Quality

By Brandy Cannon

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

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

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

The workshop focused on three major areas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

This entry was originally published on June 23rd, 2014, updated on August 16th, 2017, and posted in news.