New air quality monitors going up in area near planned inland port

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) This aerial photo from June 2018 shows where the inland port in Salt Lake City will be built.

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is working to place two new air quality monitors in the area that will become the future home of the inland port, a massive import and export trading hub planned for Salt Lake City’s northwest side.

The Lake Park monitor, located at the Monticello Academy charter school in West Valley City, was set up in May. And a second monitor located near the new state prison site is expected to be operational in the next few weeks.

Jared Mendenhall, a spokesman with the department, said those two sites — the former located near the southeast portion of the inland port and the latter at the northwest corner — were chosen in part because of wind conditions in the area.

“You want to be able to figure out what emissions are coming from the valley and what emissions are coming from the port,” he explained. “By having those two positioned on each side, you can determine what the baseline is.”

The new air quality monitors in the inland port area were mandated by state law last year in response to concerns from inland port opponents about the possible air quality impacts of the planned distribution hub, which is expected to bring increased rail, truck and air traffic, along with tailpipe emissions, to the city’s west side.

SB144, sponsored by state Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, directed the Department of Environmental Quality to establish baseline environmental conditions in the inland port area and to monitor any changes as a result of the future development.

“It’s exciting,” Escamilla said of the new monitors in an interview on Monday night. “It’s really about the data. We needed a baseline, so the sooner the better. Every day we’re not collecting data on our air quality and water quality, we’re missing data.”

The data collected will be shared on the department’s website at air.utah.gov and provided at least annually to the Inland Port Authority Board and the Legislative Management Committee.

As part of the bill, the Department of Environmental Quality has also been directed to monitor water quality within the port jurisdiction. To do that, Mendenhall said the department will be taking water samples from groundwater wells.

Ginger Chinn, who oversees business development for the inland port, said the port authority has been in communication with the Department of Environmental Quality about the new air quality monitors and plans to eventually host the data gathered on its own website.

“We’re really excited to have a baseline and we’re excited they put the air monitoring stations up,” she said in a recent interview.

Amid fears from opponents, the Utah Inland Port Authority has promised to prioritize sustainable development within the private land located in its 16,000-acre jurisdiction.

The port authority announced at the end of last month that it had signed a joint cooperation statement with Dominion Energy Utah to “explore the use and development of innovative programs and technologies associated with natural gas development including renewable natural gas, alternative fuels and energy efficiency” at the inland port site.

That four-year agreement will focus on two areas: alternative fuels and “innovative energy technologies,” the authority said in a news release.

The authority has also signed a contract with Rocky Mountain Power to create a sustainable energy supply within the port area.