Two Brigham Young University professors want to turn the university campus into a car-free zone, D5.
Nearly 1.3 million Wasatch Front residents breathe air that violates federal clean-air standards - and pollution appears to be worsening, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday.It released a study on trends in air pollution nationwide. It said that in 1989 - the most recent data released - the Salt Lake City-Ogden metropolitan area violated standards for ozone and particulates (such as soot, dirt and smoke). The Provo-Orem area violated standards for carbon monoxide and particulates.
Compared to data for two years before that in 1987, the Salt Lake area's ozone pollution was 26 percent worse and its particulate pollution 5 percent worse.
In Provo-Orem, the new data showed particulate pollution was 33 percent worse than in 1987 (when Geneva
Steel had been closed most of the year), and carbon monoxide pollution was 23 percent worse.
The Wasatch Front and its pollution have plenty of company nationwide - but the pollution in most other areas appears to be improving.
"Over 84 million Americans are breathing air that violates at least one federal standard," said EPA Administrator William K. Reilly.
"Sixty-seven million people are living in counties exceeding the smog standard, while almost 34 million are living in counties exceeding the carbon monoxide standard and over 27 million reside in areas violating the particulate standard."
But Reilly said data show that the nation is making progress in reducing the worst pollutants, and said "the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 provide EPA the tools that will continue to improve our air."
Among some of the improvement made nationwide in the past 10 years, Reilly said, smog levels decreased 14 percent; lead in the air decreased 87 percent; sulfur dioxide levels fell 24 percent; carbon monoxide levels decreased 25 percent; particulates decreased 1 percent; and nitrogen dioxide fell 5 percent.
The study said that the highest 1989 readings in the Salt Lake City-Ogden area for ozone were 25 percent above the allowed limit, 0.15 parts per million compared to 0.12 ppm. That was even 15 percent worse than New York City's reading.It was also worse than the 0.11 ppm reading Salt Lake City-Ogden had in 1987.
The mean 1989 particulate reading (the mean is figured by eliminating the highest and lowest numbers of those collected and averaging the rest) in Salt Lake City-Ogden was 56 micrograms per cubic meter (ugm). That was 12 percent above the allowable yearly mean of 50 (federal standards also do not allow more than 150 ugm in any 24-hour period). Salt Lake City's 1987 mean reading was 53 ugm.
In Provo-Orem, the annual mean for particulates in 1989 was 52 micrograms per cubic meter, 4 percent above the limit. Its mean in 1987 was 39 ugm. Geneva Steel reopened after a long layoff on Labor Day that year.
Still, the 1989 reading was a little better than the 1988 score of 54 ugm. The EPA said some such decreases in particulate readings in the West from 1988 to 1989 may have come because of a decrease in the number of forest fires.
Of note, both Utah metro areas had mean 1989 particulate readings worse or equal to such industrial cities as Philadelphia (46 ppm); New Haven, Conn. (44 ppm); and Detroit (52 ppm).
Also, Provo-Orem's highest 1989 carbon monoxide reading was 16 parts per million, 78 percent above the limit of 9 ppm. Its 1987 reading was 13 ppm.
While the report did not list reasons specifically behind the pollution in Utah, it gave some hints behind national trends that may have affected the state.
For example, it said the severe and extended droughts in the West may have helped increase particulate pollution.
"Rainfall has the effect of reducing re-entrainment of particles and of washing particles out of the air. Generally drier conditions are also associated with an increase in forest fires," the report said.
The report also showed that Salt Lake City-Ogden exceed clean air requirements for sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and lead. Provo-Orem meets standards for ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and lead.
Is Utah's air dirtier?
How Utah's metro areas fared with individual pollutants that exceed federal clean-air standards in their areas:
Salt Lake/ Provo/
Legal Limit 9ppm
% over limit 78%
Legal Limit 0.12ppm
% over limit 25%
1987 53 ugm 30 ugm
1988 54 ugm 54 ugm
1989 56 ugm 50 ugm
Legal Limit 50 ugm 50 ugm
ppm = parts per million
ugm = micrograms per cubic meter.