Valley continues to struggle with air quality problem
By Marilyn Shelton
May 2, 2006 | It's no secret to some
that Cache Valley suffers from poor air quality during
the winter months. The problem is thought to be caused
by a variety of factors. One of them is the shape of
the valley itself. The surrounding mountains give the
valley a bowl shape which traps pollution inside during
an inversion, a weather term for cold air being trapped
at the earth's surface.
The pollution is caused by what comes out of the tailpipes
of both cars and cows. The valley has an estimated 100,000
head of cattle which produce ammonia gases. The ammonia
gases then combine with carbon monoxide from cars to
make a toxic stew.
Last winter Cache Valley air quality was so poor that
the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) threatened
to declare it a "non-attainment" area. That means that
state and local governments would be required to draft
a solution to the problem and have it approved by the
EPA. They would then be required to follow that draft
and immediately find a solution to the problem.
During the winter of 2004-2005 air pollution levels
reached unhealthy levels 17 times. It reportedly had
some of the worst air in the nation. But after this
winter, is Cache Valley still in danger of being declared
a non-attainment area?
Grant Koford, an environmental scientist at the Bear
River Health Deparment, said that there were no days
during this winter which exceded the EPA's health standards.
Korford said that this is because the weather was warmer
this year. When weather is warm, this means less inversions
to trap pollution in the valley, therefore leading to
But Koford said that although Logan city avoided being
declared a non-attainment area this year, it doesn't
mean that it will avoid being declared one in the future.
The EPA regulates Cache Valley air on a three year rolling
"Right now our three years consist of 2004, 2005 and
2006. Winter 2004 was extremely high, 2005 was somewhat
high and now 2006 has to be really low to counteract
2004 or we're going to exceed that average."
If that happens Logan will be declared a non-attainment
"The state of Utah writes a plan and says, this is
what we are going to fix the problem and the EPA agrees
to the plan or says we can't do that," Koford said.
He added that there are about 3 more "free days" for
next year, the minimun amount of unhealthy air days
allowable next year before the EPA would step in. Right
now Cache County health officials including the Cache
Valley Air Quality Task Force and the Bear River Health
Department are taking measures to try to make sure that
"The state's working on it, the University's working
on it, and there are citizen groups working on it, even
some Idaho state officials are working on it," Koford
said about the problem.
Koford said that to try to solve the cattle problem,
the cattle are being fed a different kind of feed, one
containing more protein which will make for less amonia.
Another proposed plan would require citizens to pay
2 dollars extra when they go to register their cars
in Cache Valley which Koford said would be used for
research money, to research solutions to the problem
and also public awareness.
Koford said a poll was taken which showed that only
slightly more than half of Cache Valley citizens are
even aware of the air quality program. Koford said that
if citizens are aware of the problem they could do more
"The big goal is to reduce vehicle mileage,that's
the key to reducing pollution, particularly during inversions,"
Koford said. He suggests carpooling, walking or taking
the LTD bus which is free of charge, during red days
or unhealthy air days. To know the daily status of Cache
Valley air quality you can visit the Bear River Health
Department's website at http://www.brhd.org/air_quality.html.
Until then Utah and Idaho officials and some citizen
groups will be working toward a solution to the problem.
There is hope that the weather will be warm again this
winter and there will be no more than the 3 "free days"
of unhealthy air this winter. It is still unknown whether
Cache Valley will eventually be required to draft the
EPA's non-attainment plan or not.