OGDEN -- The Weber-Morgan Mobile Sources Air Quality Advisory Committee is tracking the progress of some important imminent changes for environmentally concerned residents, especially in light of recent information about the levels of pollution in Weber County.
Part of the committee's most recent meeting covered the changes the Environmental Protection Agency is requiring of the Weber-Morgan Health Department, most of which concern how motor vehicles are contributing to Weber County's exceptionally high amount of pollution, and what to do about it.
"We would like more public involvement. We try to make the general public aware of what is going on and what we are doing, but sometimes when people hear that they might have to make changes in their lives and go outside of their comfort zone, they get cold feet, and the amount of technical data about pollution intimidates them," said Brian Cowan, air-quality emergency response officer.
Part of the data's ability to intimidate people may come from a recent study compiled by the American Lung Association, which named the Salt Lake City-Ogden area the sixth worst in the nation for short-term particle pollution.
Some of that pollution comes from transportation, and Weber County's unique natural features also play a part.
"A lot of that data is based on the weather patterns. Our air just gets tossed around, being inside a mountain valley," Cowan said.
"It just stays here with us, which causes problems. The solution is to limit the amount of pollutants we put in the atmosphere, such as fossil fuels."
Cowan and Lori Buttars, health department spokeswoman, are both involved in the committee and stress that its purpose is to provide technical guidance to the Board of Health, which can, in turn, present regulations designed to keep residents safe.
"We've been assigned the responsibility of making sure that the cars are clean and safe enough to be running, and every driver out there should be able to have a vehicle," Buttars said.
"But the thing is, having so many of them is doing harm, and when someone has grown up with the convenience of their own car, finding another method that is less convenient is less desirable."
As the gas-reliant public faces its own challenges in finding ways to exercise caution environmentally, health officials face the consequences of Salt Lake-Ogden-Clearfield's failure to meet the national ambient air-quality standards set forth by the Clean Air Act in 2009.
This was because the area's amount of polluted micrograms per cubic meter exceeded the 35 micrograms per cubic meter maximum, which required Utah to create a state implementation plan designed to bring the air up to safety standards.
Cowan said he hopes the local health department will be given "more control over open burning days, and we'll be looking at whether we'll begin testing diesel fuels."
Regulations on environmental hazards such as fugitive dust were addressed. Fugitive dust, which can be caused by construction when dust is not contained within the property or space in which the work is being performed, could be particularly harmful given all the construction taking place in Weber County.
"I gave the advisory committee an update on some ideas we have, and there are some new programs that the Department of Air Quality may partner with the Health Department to address," Cowan said.
Learn more at www.webermorganhealth.org.