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A plan to clean up winter pollution episodes in northern Utah goes up for public comment next week.
And, even though the proposed plan still falls short of the goal of ending spikes of fine-soot pollution, the state faces an end-of-the-year deadline to tell the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency what measures can be taken to address the problem.
"We've identified many strategies for reducing pollution and will use the comment process to identify additional reductions and refine the plan," said Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality. "Most notably," Bird added, "we will start seeing air-quality improvements immediately while still fine-tuning the [plan] for EPA approval."
The plan calls for emissions reductions from industry, more public transit and limits on large bakeries and industrial grills that release key chemicals, among other controls. It also expands pollution limits into Cache, Box Elder and Tooele counties.
Fine soot pollution, called PM 2.5 by regulators, is linked to a variety of health impacts ranging from stinging eyes and chest tightness to asthma hospitalizations, heart attacks and even early death. Those affected most include the very young, the very old and those with heart and lung problems.
Under the health-based pollution limits established under the Clean Air Act, an area must come up with emissions-reduction plans when there are too many days that have PM 2.5 concentrations above 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Meeting this limit has been a problem in northern Utah during winter inversions when a layer of warm air traps the pollution in valley bowls for days and sometimes weeks at a time.
Utah's proposed cleanup plan has 23 new rules intended to help the affected counties Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Salt Lake, Tooele, Utah and Weber comply with those federal standards.
Regulators have been zeroing in on exactly what's causing Utah's winter pollution problem for three years. They have spent much of the past year working with industry, local government and advocacy groups to develop the proposal.
To give your opinion
To learn more about the winter pollution-reduction plan, the regulations associated with it and how to weigh in by Oct. 30, see the Division of Air Quality Web page: http://www.airquality.utah.gov/Public-Interest/Current-Issues/pm2.5/index.html.
In addition, public comment hearings are set for Logan on Oct. 15, Orem on Oct. 16 and Salt Lake City on Oct. 17.