The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that Weber County and six other counties along the Wasatch Front and in the Uinta Basin are in non-compliance for ozone pollution.
The EPA designated these areas in “marginal” non-attainment under the Clean Air Act. The decision comes after the federal agency revised its ozone standards in 2015.
“In a way, this is our written warning," said Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality, in a press release.
Ozone forms during hot summer days when tailpipe emissions and other pollutants mix with sunlight. It can exacerbate breathing problems and effectively acts like a sunburn in the lungs.
The new designation applies to all or parts of Weber, Davis, Salt Lake, Tooele and Utah counties on the Wasatch Front and parts of Uintah and Duchesne counties in the Uinta Basin.
The ruling means the affected counties in Utah aren’t meeting the federal standard of 70 parts per billion ozone 8-hour average. Air quality regulators will need to meet the standard in three years or face a more serious designation.
With “marginal” non-attainment, the state will not have to submit a formal State Implementation Plan, or SIP, for ozone, which is currently required for the state’s counties that have wintertime particulate pollution problems.
That could all change if air quality doesn’t meet ozone standards in the next few years. SIPs require states to develop new regulations to lower pollution.
EPA calculates ozone compliance on a three-year average, using the fourth-highest ozone level collected over an eight-hour period. That three-year average in Ogden was 73 ppb as of April 2017, according to DAQ information.
Like wintertime pollution that builds during inversion events, ozone pollution is highly variable depending on local weather and climate conditions.
Utahns can help cut ozone pollution by reducing trips on hot, sunny days, fueling up vehicles after the sun sets and avoiding consumer products that contribute to the pollution, like paints and aerosols. Swapping gas-guzzling lawnmowers and edgers for electric equipment also helps.