Lawmakers Seek Funding For Better Pollution Monitoring

Feb 6, 2017

The Utah Division of Air Quality runs its pollution monitoring program out of a warehouse in West Valley City. Bo Call oversees it, and he looks on as a technician troubleshoots a busted pollution sampler – one of about a dozen.

“They’re here because they’re broken,” he says. “They might be used for parts. I mean, the majority in our network are past their five-year life, so we’re looking to find replacements.”

Replacing the broken monitors here would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Years of budget cuts means there are no backups when equipment fails, like the monitor that left Ogden without two months of real-time data this fall. But Call says high-quality data is critical.

“Air quality is very expensive, and it’s based on a lot of data,” he says. “And the more accurate the data is, the better you can resolve your solutions.

Utah’s air-quality monitoring is due for updates, and leaders of the Utah Legislature’s bipartisan Clean Air Caucus are taking that message Tuesday to budget-makers. Last year they okayed the Department of Environmental Quality’s request for $6 million to replace the warehouse with a new technical services building that will serve Air Quality and other environmental agencies. DAQ also received half of what it requested last year for monitoring equipment, and it’s hoping for more this year.

“The public cares about this; we care about this,” says Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, who’s spearheading the effort. “It affects our health. It affects our economic development. It’s an important issue. It affects all of us.”

The founder of the bipartisan Clean Air Caucus, Arent says public and business concern is driving the case for clean-air legislation and funding.