Utah Valley has a fairly bleak pollution outlook and the problem must be addressed by the community's major contributors and the state Bureau of Air Quality, a Brigham Young University professor says.
"Polluted water and air is damaging to the human spirit and body," said Sam Rushforth, a professor of botany and range science. "In a few years we'll look back and say, `How could we have allowed pollution to happen?' "Speaking to the Utah County League of Women Voters Tuesday, Rushforth said there is no question that the valley's three sources of pollution are industry, automobiles and stoves, with Geneva Steel being the main source of pollution.
"The valley's health issue seems to be most associated with Geneva Steel," Rushforth said, but the monitoring and enforcement of air quality laws is inadequate. Everything in Utah favors the polluter, he said.
The Wasatch Front is listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as a critical area in the United States with a significant air quality problem, he said and because of that he and the Utah County league's president will be asking the state to take some action toward correcting the problem.
To correct the problem, the Bureau of Air Quality must put in place an implementation plan to meet the PM10 standard, he said. That standard became effective July 1987 and was to be implemented within nine months, but the state still has no implementation plan.
The PM10 standard is violated when more than 150 particles smaller than a micron are counted in a cubic meter of air during one day. A micron is a millionth of a meter.
The previous standard, Total Suspended Particulates, measured all particulates instead of just fine particulates. Fine particulates are more of a health concern because they reach the lungs.
Rushforth said they will also be asking the state to increase monitoring in Utah County so the problem can be handled properly. At the present time there isn't any monitoring of heavy metals and certain toxins, the absense of which is crucial to good health, he said. The different types of hydrocarbons emitted also need to be monitored.
According to data from the State Department of Health, Geneva is responsible for 63 percent of particulates emitted in the county, 89 percent of sulfur oxide and 77 percent of nitrous oxide emitted, Rushforth said.
In fact, the problem could be even worse because sulfur oxide hasn't been monitored since 1979, he said. The Bureau of Air Quality, however, is presently installing a monitor for sulfur oxide in one of the county's monitoring stations.
Rushforth's data for sulfur oxide comes from the state's inventory data since it was not monitored by the bureau.
He said adequate penalties for emission violations are also important."Nobody is asking the state to knock Geneva with million-dollar fines, but a stiffer penalty will make anyone think twice before polluting."
He also thinks it is necessary to ask those contributing to pollution to assume the responsibility they have been charged with for the health of the citizens.
"How come Geneva gets the rap?" Rushforth asked. "Of the total industry pollution, they are the major pollutant by enormous amounts. There are very few places in the U.S. with a single source of pollution. Geneva must come in compliance because they are out of compliance frequently, he said. "We are not advocating the plant's closure, we are just demanding compliance."
Rushforth said it is frustrating to deal with the state because "they didn't jump on the bandwagon (when the EPA came out with the PM10 standard) and had an opportunity to lead out in the states."