Bad-air spike on July 4 an 'exceptional event'?

Sep 20 2011 - 10:31am

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AP file photo
This file photo taken July 2005 shows fireworks exploding during the “Freedom Blast” Fourth of July festivities in Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. State officials are asking the EPA to exempt cities from penalties for excessive pollution caused by fireworks during the Fourth of July.
AP file photo
This file photo taken July 2005 shows fireworks exploding during the “Freedom Blast” Fourth of July festivities in Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. State officials are asking the EPA to exempt cities from penalties for excessive pollution caused by fireworks during the Fourth of July.

OGDEN -- The location of a state-operated air-monitoring station could have a bearing on readings that detected high levels of fine-particulate pollution from Fourth of July fireworks, says an Ogden fire official.

The monitoring station is near Jefferson Park, 3302 Grant Ave., which is a popular place for people to shoot off fireworks, city Fire Marshal Matt Schwenk said Monday.

The location of monitoring stations can be a double-edged sword, said Louis K. Cooper, environmental health director for Weber-Morgan Health Department.

It is important to have them in an urban setting, but particulate readings can be susceptible to such factors as fireworks or fire department training exercises, Cooper said.

"Sometimes I don't think they are aware of the issues when they (the state) place them," he said.

The state Division of Air Quality is requesting that excessive pollution data gathered at the monitoring station on July 4 in 2010 and 2011 not count against the state in an annual tally kept by the Environmental Protection Agency. The DAQ maintains that the Fourth of July should be considered an "exceptional event," in accordance with EPA guidelines.

"Utahns are exuberant in the celebration of Independence Day," the DAQ said in a report to the EPA. "Fireworks are a part of most community celebrations."

Levels of fine-particulate pollution, which can be caused by some of the chemicals used in fireworks, more than doubled in Ogden from July 3 to July 4 in 2011, and dropped by almost half on July 5, the DAQ determined.

Even though a state law that went into effect this year allowed the purchase and use of legal fireworks from June 26 to July 26, the only day that Ogden exceeded federal particulate limits was July 4. The jump in pollution was expected, and the agency issued public warnings around the holiday, the DAQ said. The fine-particulate pollution is often caused by soot and is more common during the winter because of the use of fireplaces.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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