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Utah's air quality violates federal fine particulate matter standard

Release Date: 08/19/2008
Contact Information: Callie Videtich, 303-312-6434, videtich.callie@epa.gov, Catherine Roberts, 303-312-6025, roberts.catherine@epa.gov

(Denver, Colo. -- August 19, 2008) Utah's Governor Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., was notified today of recommendations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 8 office concerning areas of his state that do not meet the federal health-based fine particle (PM2.5, 24-hour) air quality standard. EPA's comments are in response to Governor Huntsman's letter dated Dec. 18, 2007, which detailed his recommendations for which Utah counties or parts of counties should be designated as not attaining the fine particle standard (also referred to as nonattainment).

Utah is among 25 states nationwide that have counties/areas being formally proposed as nonattainment for failing to meet the PM2.5 standard. This is the first time Utah has had PM2.5 areas identified.


"EPA and the State are very concerned about the impact to human health and plan to work closely to address this problem," said Carol Rushin, Region 8's Acting Regional Administrator. "Fine particle pollution is one of the most significant barriers to clean air facing our nation today. Helping areas of the country reduce pollution and meet national air quality standards is our top priority."


According to state-validated air quality monitoring data from 2005, 2006 and 2007, several counties in Utah violated the 24-hour PM2.5 federal standard. Based on this data, EPA has recommended that the counties of Salt Lake and Davis and parts of Utah, Weber, Box Elder and Tooele become a single nonattainment area. Additionally, part of Cache County in Utah and Franklin County in Idaho are proposed as a single nonattainment area. When completed, this nonattainment designation starts a process in which local and state officials develop and implement a plan to reduce PM2.5 pollution.


PM2.5 -- approximately 1/30th the size of an average human hair -- can aggravate heart and lung diseases and has been associated with a variety of serious health problems including heart attacks, chronic bronchitis and asthma attacks. Sources of PM2.5 include fuel combustion from automobiles, power plants, wood burning, industrial processes and diesel-powered vehicles such as buses and trucks. In September 2006, EPA dramatically strengthened the fine particle standards to protect public health, tightening the 24-hour standard from 65 to 35 micrograms per cubic meter.


The State of Utah will have 60 days to provide EPA with additional technical documentation in support of its original recommendations. In addition, for the first time EPA is opening a 30-day public comment period on the recommended nonattainment designations. All interested parties are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to submit comments.


Recommendations from states and tribes along with EPA's responses are available at:

http://www.epa.gov/pmdesignations/2006standards/index.htm.