The Utah County Air Coalition is making sure people don't have to wait until next fall to be reminded of the valley's air pollution problems.
The group is putting up a billboard along the southbound lanes of I-15 in Lehi that shows an inversion capping the valley. In the upper right corner of the sign is the word "breathtaking."Below that is a sentence encouraging people to "support clean air" and inviting them to call the coalition.
The billboard will be put up as soon as the weather improves and will remain in place at least through next January. The coalition is paying "several thousand dollars" to rent the billboard from Sparks Advertising in Orem. Sparks is underwriting part of the cost.
Coalition members decided to air their views about pollution via a strategically placed billboard because the issue "hasn't been taken as seriously as it should be."
"This hits home," said John J. Palica, spokesman for the coalition's billboard committee. "Some people like to think the problem's been resolved. During spring and summer the symptoms of the problem don't seem too bad, but the reality is they are. We want to make sure people don't forget how bad it is."
The coalition believes a state implementation plan for controlling fine particulate now being evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency is inadequate and that more needs to be done to reduce pollution levels in Utah County.
"We believe at this point the way to get the job done is to influence the lawmakers," Palica said. "The way to do that is by raising the awareness of the citizens who vote."
The coalition also is sending out a second mailing of a brochure about air pollution. The coalition sent out 41,000 brochures in January. This time, 15,000 brochures are being mailed to valley residents who were not included in the first mailing.
While the coalition supports individual actions aimed at clearing the air, such as reducing the use of wood stoves during inversions, its primary concern is emissions from Geneva Steel.
The coalition wants Geneva to "do something" with its coke ovens. Three alternatives it is proposing are: stockpile coke during summer months for used during winter inversion periods, relocate the coke ovens to a part of the state not subject to inversions or buy coke from another producer.
"Geneva has certainly impacted the economy in a positive manner, but has the impact to the economy been so great that you can overlook the pollution they're putting into this valley?" Palica said. "The health of the (residents) of this valley is much greater in magnitude than the few jobs provided by the steel mill."