SALT LAKE CITY — State environmental regulators had a busy year in 2018, coordinating a multi-agency response to more than two dozen harmful algal bloom outbreaks in Utah waterways and fielding concerns over persistent wildfire smoke from a severe fire season.
On Wednesday, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality released its annual State of the Environment Report, featuring a message from Executive Director Alan Matheson and a comprehensive examination of challenges faced and milestones achieved in 2018.
The report examines agency actions through its five divisions, including water quality, air quality, and environmental response and remediation of contaminated land.
New this year is an onlinelink to some of the agency's most popular blogs informing residents of snowblower exchanges to cut wintertime emissions, wood stove exchange grants and tips on recycling the right way.
"We take very seriously our obligation to public health," Matheson said in a videotaped message. "We want to make sure people can live productive lives, lives of promise and joy and reach their full potential."
Matheson noted efforts by divisions to address ozone emissions in the oil- and gas-producing region of eastern Utah, boost wastewater improvements in cities like Logan and Salem, help areas with drinking water problems in the aftermath of wildfires and remediation of the Sharon Steel Superfund site.
Highlights of the report include:
• Coordinating response to more than 25 harmful algal bloom outbreaks over the summer and into fall in an effort that also included collecting water samples from more than 800 sites and 60 bodies of water;
• Providing nearly $17 million in financial assistance for the development or improvement of drinking water systems in Utah;
• Overseeing cleanup operations at two Superfund sites — Eureka Mills in Juab County and the Davenport and Flagstaff smelters in Salt Lake County— both of which were delisted in 2018 and deemed by the federal government as successfully remediated.
The agency also participated in land cleanups that fostered the development of the Ogden Business Exchange occupying the former site of the Golden Spike Coliseum and stockyards, Alta Gateway, Centro Civico senior housing, the Liberty Boulevard Apartments and View 72 at the former Sharon Steel Superfund site in Midvale.
Nutrient regulations impacting wastewater discharge and the need to modernize plants spurred $200 million in financial assistance from the agency to local communities, including Logan, South Salt Lake and the Central Valley plant serving the greater Salt Lake area.
In March, the agency worked with Chevron to coordinate the cleanup of a catastrophic spill of 55,000 gallons of gasoline from an underground storage tank across the street from the LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo.
There are more than 4,000 of these tanks statewide, necessitating hundreds of compliance inspections each year by state employees.
In this instance, spilled gasoline migrated into the groundwater about 35 feet below the surface and spread 300 feet in diameter, according to the annual report.
Close to two dozen sampling wells were installed to determine if gasoline vapors were impacting nearby buildings, including a hotel and a bank.
By late October, about 38,000 gallons of gasoline had been removed, the report noted.
A review by the remediation division concluded a number of problems with Chevron's management of that particular underground tank.
In 2018, Utah was able to celebrate some air quality victories, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issuing in November a clean air determination for Cache Valley, the first of its kind for Utah in 12 years since the federal government revised the standard.
Utah lawmakers approved $600,000 for research and monitoring projects in 2018, and going forward, nine Utah specific research projects will unfold this year.
As an example, the division plans to team up with the University of Utah Department of Chemical Engineering in a new monitoring method to determine the extent of wood smoke contributing to valley pollution.1 comment on this story
In a massive overhaul of regulatory requirements in light of a legislative audit, the state passed a law requiring reform of storage requirements for drinking water systems.
The Division of Drinking Water is working with hundreds of community water systems throughout the state to refine capacity requirements so they are the most efficient for individual systems for peak demand and public safety.
The annual report highlights the efforts of the agency that employees 380 people.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has recommended $17.2 million for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality in general fund money.