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Tribune Editorial: Dealing with air quality is every Utahn’s business

First Published      Last Updated Jan 04 2017 04:02 pm

Weber County entered the new year without its real-time air-quality monitor operated by the Utah Division of Air Quality.

The monitor in Ogden had just been replaced. But the new one didn't work, and DAQ workers were in the process of replacing the replacement. In the meantime, state officials said, Weber County residents concerned about the state of their air should take a look at the monitoring data from neighboring Davis County.

Thesis: It is a shock that, in a region where air quality is such an obvious and widespread concern, Weber County only has one air monitor device tied into the DAQ system.




It is hard to imagine a thought process that does not conclude that Weber, Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties, at least, should be peppered from end to end with real-time monitors. We should have a network of state-of-the-art devices that give the state — and the rest of us — up-to-the-minute measurements of various kinds of pollutants.

That information is vital for purposes that range from individuals making decisions about where, and whether, to drive to schools planning recess to researchers tracking patterns of pollution back to their sources.

Gov. Gary Herbert's proposed budget seeks $1.45 million for more monitoring equipment, for the Wasatch Front and for Cedar City. That's the least that lawmakers should approve for a state where air monitors should be at least as ubiquitous as the video monitors found at TRAX stations and many other public places. That they don't makes one wonder if some of our elected officials might not be happy to react to the perception of horrid air quality by refusing to measure it, in the ridiculous hope that nobody will notice.

Antithesis: Look out the window.

Veterans of the Wasatch Front's normal winter inversions should not require a sci-fi Skynet to let us know when we should stop burning wood, cut back on driving, take the bus, stay home and read a good book.

Synthesis: Both.

Air quality, like other aspects of health and safety, is a goal that can only be realized when both collective action, usually through government, and individual responsibility are valued and pursued.

It's true for fire safety, traffic safety, crime prevention, the prevention of infectious diseases and many other things. Government must look at the big picture, gather data and make rules. Individuals must take responsibility for whatever it is they can do.

If either just sits and waits for the other to act, nothing will get better.

 

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