LOGAN — Cache County leaders were working to draft their first-ever emissions testing program on Tuesday, even as counties throughout the state were seeing air pollution alerts being issued by regulators.
Some of the most polluted counties along the Wasatch Front have had programs in place for several years, but Cache County has delayed passing new regulations, despite Cache Valley air being labeled the worst the nation on a regular basis. On Tuesday, the particulate matter levels in the valley were in the 80s and 90s; unhealthy territory begins at just over 55.
"It's pretty hard on the lungs," said Steve McLeod, a Smithfield resident. "It's been worse, I guess, before, but I can't wait for it to leave, and for summer to come back."
County leaders said they understand that residents are frustrated with the air, but they need residents to work with them.
"If you could actually get people to drive less, that would do more than an emissions testing program would do," said Lynn Lemon, a Cache County executive.
Lemon said the council tried for years to come up with their own way of fighting pollution. Their plan would have involved labeling cars that pollute the most and having those drivers agree to keep the cars off the roads on red-air days.
"I think there's pressure," Lemon said. "I think other counties are saying, ‘Hey, we've been doing this for a long time; you need to do it. Yet in the end, the EPA rejected that idea, and so we are where we are."
Counties under an air pollution alert:
- Box Elder
- Salt Lake
When will it end?
A emissions program needs to start in the county by December, as required by the EPA.
"I'm not opposed to doing that," Lemon said. "It just seems like our goal ought to be, what do we need to do to clean up the air?"
A finalized plan is expected in about a month's time, but Lemon pointed out the inversions will still come and the air will still look like bad at times unless something more substantial can be done.
"I think that it would have been better if we could actually reduce the number of miles traveled," he said. "That would have been much more significant than an emissions testing program."
Nothing is set so far, but the County Health Department will likely head up the emissions program. Cars five years or older would have to be tested every other year.
Currently, Salt Lake County requires those cars to have emissions tests every year.