Pollution season has come to Utah County. Mild inversions have capped the valley several times, turning the air stagnant, smoky and unhealthy to breathe.
So far this winter, the county has not exceeded the allowable levels for PM 10, fine particulate matter less than 10 microns in size - the stuff that gets lodged in lungs and damages them. There have been two episodes involving excessive levels of carbon monoxide.But consider last year: 19 violations of the PM 10 standard were recorded at the air quality monitor in Lindon; 16 violations of the carbon monoxide standard were recorded between November 1989 and November 1990.
A few bad inversions are bound to come to the valley before the winter is over. When the inversions come, valley residents who do not depend on wood-burning stoves and fireplaces for their sole source of heat and those who don't have EPA-approved stoves should consider voluntarily restricting burning.
Some 40,000 fireplaces and 14,000 wood or coal-burning stoves are in Utah County. Emissions from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces make up 13.5 percent of the PM 10 problem in Utah County according to the Bureau of Air Quality.
Wood smoke contributes 8 percent to 10 percent of the carbon monoxide found in the valley's air. In addition to carbon monoxide and PM 10, wood smoke contains significant levels of benzo yrene, a known carcinogen.
Because of the valley's bowllike composition, residents of all cities, from Payson to Alpine, contribute to poor air quality. Emissions circulate around the valley like water swirling around inside a bowl. While a single city may not experience air quality violations, emissions there contribute to problems in areas that do.
The Bureau of Air Quality will not ask residents who don't meet excepted criteria - sole source of heat or EPA-approved stoves - to voluntarily abstain from using wood-burning stoves and fireplaces during inversions until September 1991. It won't begin a mandatory program of curtailing use until the following year.
But why wait? Why not begin contributing to cleaner air in Utah County today? It makes good sense.
Generally, residents should consider not using their wood-burning stoves and fireplaces when the air looks bad and during high pressure or inversion conditions, according to Burnell Cordner, director of the Bureau of Air Quality. Residents also can find out about air quality conditions by calling 373-9560. Any time the air quality clearing index is 200 or less residents should consider not using their wood-burning stoves and fireplaces, Cordner said.
Cleaning up the air in Utah County requires the efforts of all residents. Now is a good time to begin that effort.