Air quality 101: Local expert explains winter pollution

Logan’s unwanted national attention this week – named by AirNow.gov for the poorest air quality in the country Monday – came on the same day the Bear River Health Department declared the area in a “red air alert” day. Richard Worley is the Deputy Director of Environmental Health at the Bear River Health Department. “On Monday we exceeded levels that other parts of the country did not,” he said. “It’s important to keep a perspective that our red air days are seasonal and do not occur chronically throughout the year. “We have a bowl we sit in here in this valley in the winter time and inversions develop and there just isn’t enough mixing in the upper atmosphere to dilute the pollution levels.” Although the problem isn’t one that lasts all year, Worley emphasized measures should be taken to protect ourselves during these events. “This includes staying indoors,” he said, “and if you need to be outside try to reduce your heavy exertion or exercise that might cause you to breath in these particles.” There is a wood-burning ordinance in place prohibiting burning on “red air” days and people are encouraged to reduce their driving at these times. Worley said help is coming. “We have been put in non-attainment by the EPA,” he said. “That’s the mechanism to give us the resources to start a plan of action to get some control measures to help us reduce these levels.” Worley said it would be “…a couple more years…” before those measures are in place. The regulated pollutant the EPA recognizes for particulate matter is PM 2.5 (meaning 2.5 microns) and Logan exceeded the 24-hour standard which is 35.5. Tuesday’s number was about 47.0 for a 24-hour average.

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