Air-quality scientists have been puzzling for years over how to blunt Utah’s wintertime pollution spikes.
They haven’t found a magic bullet so far, but they are weighing pollution-control options that could affect everyone in northern Utah. Ideas include expanding burning bans and vehicle-inspection programs, cutting pollution at degreasing, coating and wood refinishing businesses, and even requiring catalytic controls on restaurant meat grills.
Bill Reiss, a Utah Division of Air Quality engineer, said this week that regulators are meeting with 35 large polluters to look for emissions reductions from industrial operations that would translate into lower levels of PM 2.5.
PM 2.5 is a pollutant with microscopic soot that gets trapped in cold air during winter inversions and periodically makes northern Utah’s air quality the nation’s worst. And the Environmental Protection Agency has given the state until year’s end to eliminate the pollution spikes above concentrations of 35 micrograms PM 2.5 per cubic meter of air.
The health impacts of this particulate pollution can range from burning eyes to asthma hospitalizations and even premature death from lung and heart problems.
Strategies being considered for PM 2.5 look likely to bring Davis, Weber, Box Elder, Tooele and Cache counties into compliance as soon as 2014, said Reiss. But aggressive strategies in Salt Lake and Utah counties might not be enough — even if the state gets a five-year extension from EPA, according to the state’s projections.
“We still need to work a little harder and find a few more micrograms [of reductions] at those locations,” Reiss said.
Air Quality Board member Robert Paine noted that Salt Lake and Utah counties will be challenged to meet the EPA limits. But Reiss noted that solutions are still being fine-tuned.
Reiss noted that the easy solutions are already being used. “That’s some tough scrubbin’ at the bottom of those pots.”