SALT LAKE CITY — The vital testing related to Utah's air pollution and water quality will now be carried out under one roof with Tuesday's celebratory opening of the new Technical Support Center.
The 21,500-square-foot building will serve the needs of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and was funded in part by a $6 million appropriation by the Utah Legislature in 2016. Another $698,000 from the Utah Division of Construction and Facilities Management and DEQ finished off the project.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert ushered in the official opening of the center, which is occupied by the Water Quality Division on one side and the Air Quality Division on the other. Other entities within the state agency, such as the Division of Drinking Water, will use the laboratory, too.
The new building is adjacent to agency headquarters and replaces a testing facility in West Valley City, where scientists working in that warehouse labored under less than ideal conditions that included rumblings and vibrations from a nearby truck stop.
Alan Matheson, state agency director, described the poor conditions of the warehouse and another site that housed boats used by water quality scientists. The location of the labs required several trips a day from scientists from agency headquarters, costing time and adding to tailpipe emissions.
The agency sought money for a new laboratory in a yearslong process in which they were repeatedly rejected.
Brad Johnson, who recently left as deputy director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, said he started pushing for the new building at least nine years ago, and then suddenly, the state Division of Construction and Facilities Management indicated the timing might be right for another request.
Construction workers broke ground two years ago under the purview of Hogan Construction, with Method Studio at the helm of the building's architectural design.Comment on this story
Rob Beishline, architect with Method Studio, said the firm deliberately chose 12-foot-high steel patina panels that will weather and age with the exposure to water and air — components of the environment that the state agency is charged with protecting.
Beishline recalled that as a young child, he would spend time his father's lab, a chemist, and marvel at the strange smells.
He noted how this lab, too, will have those smells with the eye wash stations and black acid resistant countertops.
Herbert noted that the lab will help the agency fulfill its continual mission of boosting protections for the environment, and do it in such a way that uses better science, with more efficiency.
"This is a blue-ribbon day for DEQ," he said.