Environews: Utah State of the Environment 2018
In January, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released its annual State of the Environment Report. The report details environmental permitting, enforcement and remediation for water quality, air quality, radioactive waste and cleanup of spills and industrial brownfields.
In the past year, harmful algae blooms (a.k.a. nutrient pollution) affected 25 Utah waterbodies, posing a significant threat to Utah’s quality of life. DEQ has also been working on water quality standards for Great Salt Lake wetlands which are threatened by upstream water development, invasive species (especially phragmites, a large perennial grass), nutrient pollution and land use changes.
The frequency of oil and chemical spills in Utah is increasing.
The Logan PM2.5 Nonattainment Area came into compliance with federal air quality standards.
An Air Quality Research Roadmap (AIR2) sets goals and priorities to address pollution control strategies in northern Utah. Urban growth makes human impacts on air quality more pronounced so that the daily choices of individuals matter more.
Wildfires and dust events were not considered “reasonably controllable” to attain federal air quality standards.
Sensors installed on TRAX light-rail trains monitored air quality and inversions.
Although federal law prevents Utah from establishing its own fuel standards, DEQ has been working with local refineries to encourage production of low-sulfur Tier 3 gasoline that could significantly improve Utah’s air.
Brownfield cleanup in Salt Lake City will allow the Centro Civico Mexicano to build an affordable senior housing project. Removal of contaminated soil enabled transit-oriented development of the Alta Gateway property. Two Utah Superfund Sites (Eureka Mills in the Tintic Mining District and Davenport & Flagstaff Smelters in Sandy) were de-listed thanks to successful cleanup.
Disgraced Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt (resigned July 6, 2018 due to ethics scandals) undermined enforcement of federal regional haze rules in Utah.
DEQ also issued a controversial operating permit for the White Mesa Uranium Mill built in 1979 three miles from a Ute Mountain Ute tribal community. The permit seems intended to facilitate revival of uranium mining within the reduced boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument. The mill is currently under a “Corrective Action” plan due to groundwater contamination.