Wasatch Front bad air quality prompts preventive measures in St. George

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The air quality in the Wasatch Front is in crisis, and Utahans across the board should be striving for cleaner, healthier air. 

Harsh winter weather and topographic elements negatively impact the air of the Wasatch Front. While St. George is within compliance with the air standard of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Wasatch Front is constantly struggling to be within compliance. According to UPHC.org, air quality directly effects health and estimates  that the current air pollution levels can shorten lives by two years.

Gov. Gary Herbert created the Clean Air Action Team Oct. 15 to help find ways to improve air quality.

According to the Action Team’s press release published Jan. 30, the action team is pushing toward bringing cleaner cars and fuel to Utah and to eliminate wood burning.

“The Action Team’s recommendation will cover the gamut — everything from regulation, legislation, education, research and transportation,” Herbert said in a press release on Utah.gov. “I want to assure you that no possible solution will be left unturned.” 

William Swensen, St. George air quality manager, is working with Mayor Jon Pike to get a second air monitor in St. George.

Air monitors measure the amount of small particles in the air that enter the lungs and are less than 2.5 microns in diameter, otherwise called particulate matter 2.5.

“We’re using the monitor to regulate Little Valley right now,” Swensen said. “We move the monitor when we see problem areas.”

Air pollution can come from a multitude of sources, according to EPA.gov. Some sources include factories, power plants, smelters, cars, buses, planes, windblown dust and volcanic eruptions. Monitors are placed in areas of St. George that may be experiencing a higher amount of these pollutants.

Swensen said monitoring and measuring the air is the key to maintenance. St. George is currently within compliance with the EPA. To find an hourly-updated air quality measure, visit airquality.utah.gov

Kelcey Polliei, a freshman general education major from Salt Lake City, said she notices a distinct difference between the air in Salt Lake City compared to St. George.

“The air in Salt Lake is definitely bad,” Polliei said. “I went up there last week, and I could feel a difference in my lungs.”

Swensen said the youth and elderly are especially susceptible to the affects of pollution in all regions and encourages people to join the Southern Utah Air Quality Task Force to be proactive in keeping St. George’s air quality up to standard.

The task force is made up of citizens and public officers who are proactive in taking measures toward better air quality. The people involved in the task force try to come up with innovative ways to maintain good air quality and spread the message.

“Become involved,” Swensen said. “Join the task force, join a carpool and avoid idling your car.”

Brock Butler, a junior business major from Carlsbad, Calif., said St. George doesn’t seem to have obvious air quality issues like the Wasatch Front, but people should still be mindful of the impact each of us has on the air.

“If individuals have the drive to do something to help, that’s great,” Butler said. “Lots of grains of sand will eventually do something big.”