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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah has cleared one air quality regulatory hurdle with the welcome announcement that the state is in compliance for annual levels of fine particulate pollution, or PM2.5.
The Environmental Protection Agency's declaration does not mean a seven-county area has successfully put the lid on those 24-hour spikes that cause health concerns and unwanted attention for having some of the nation's dirtiest air.
“Utah still faces challenges with meeting the (24-hour) standard during winter inversions,” said Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality. “Reductions in pollutants from industrial and transportation sources are tied to the improvements in the annual averages of fine particulate pollution. This achievement of the annual standard highlights the fact that we do have great air quality for much of the year, but we still have considerable work ahead of us to address those winter days when our air is unhealthy.”
But the work of the past decades, according to the division, has improved overall air quality.
“This is good news,” said Amanda Smith, director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. “The Division of Air Quality has worked with industry, stakeholders, and the public on a plan that has resulted in emission reductions and healthier air year-round.”
In a letter to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy declared all of Utah in compliance with the annual standard for particulate pollution, PM2.5, after reviewing the most recent certified air quality data for Utah.
In 2012, the annual standard was tightened from 15 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) to 12 ug/m3.