To the Point
We Utahns love our hamburgers and hot dogs, our convenient plastic bags and colorful balloons. But we don't often like to think of where those items come from or, in the case of plastic, where they go after we're through with them.
It's the same with our lovely new homes. The wood for framing, the concrete and gravel for foundations and floors, the sheetrock for our walls. All this has to be dug out, cut down and manufactured somewhere, and the processes are often devastating to the environment.
Somehow, the needs and desires of humans have to be made compliant with the absolute necessity of protecting the air we breathe, the water we consume and the land we cherish.
Those contradictory necessities are coming into conflict in a big way at Utah's Point of the Mountain, where excavation of rock products is producing unhealthy dust and threatening popular recreation areas.
The Geneva Rock Company owns land up to the highest ridge of the point that juts out between the Salt Lake and Utah valleys. The company says it has no plans to excavate the ridge called Steep Mountain that is so popular with paragliders, but some recreationists are rightly concerned.
The excavation has divided the flight park on the south side, home of Utah County's Flight Park State Recreation Area, from the Salt Lake County flight park on the north.
But the issue that prompted organization of the group Save Steep Mountain was not the mining itself so much as the dust the process kicks up. Sometimes visibility is extremely low and breathing is difficult close to the pit. The fine dust, which is the most dangerous type for people with lung dysfunction, wafts far over the two valleys.
Fortunately, the residents and the company are talking, along with the state Division of Air Quality, about how to deal with the problem. Geneva says it has a plan to water down the site to lessen the amount of dust in the air. But some experts say that is not enough.
This problem should be a priority for the DAQ and state leaders. Geneva and other companies like it should be accountable for the gunk they spew into the air, in the same way other companies pay to dump into waterways or sewers.
We cannot simply shrug our shoulders and blame our bowl-like geography for our worsening air pollution. In the long run it will affect economic development, but, most important, it is dangerous to public health.