WEU: Utah’s State of the Environment Report for 2015

  • January 10, 2016
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By John Worlock, Member of Board of Directors of Save Our Canyons


            Each year Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality issues a “State of the Environment Report.”  We found the 2015 issue on their website, www.deq.utah.gov.  Forty-odd pages, nicely presented, with lots of good pictures.  But mostly it is self-congratulatory prose, telling us about how hard they are working to improve the environment in which we live.

              Just in case you don’t want to spend your afternoon studying it, we’ll tell you what we found to be interesting: ignoring the reports from the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control and the Division of Environmental Response and Remediation, concentrating on sections dealing with Water and Air.

              While there is only one Division dealing with Air Quality, there are two Divisions in charge of Water.  The Division of Drinking Water is interested in the water from the moment it is taken from streams, reservoirs or aquifers until it comes to your house, factory or farm.  They are finally getting around to studying our actual needs—domestic, industrial and agricultural—for so-called drinking water, now and in the near future.

              The Division of Water Quality follows the water’s earlier history, as it carries pollutants off your streets, farms and watersheds into those streams and aquifers.  They are normally interested in nutrient pollution to the water sources, especially those from wastewater treatment plants, but have been busy with recent oil spills as well as the effluent from Colorado’s Gold King mine.

              Both of the water-oriented divisions maintain sizable revolving fund enterprises, so they have been able to assist municipalities and others with financing the infrastructure for water supply and waste water disposal.

              The Division of Air Quality is in more or less permanent collisions and negotiations with the federal Environmental Protection Administration, or EPA, over both the particulate and the ozone pollution which regularly reach dangerous and illegal levels in both the populated Wasatch Front and the Uinta Basin. Utah’s electric power plant emissions are likewise out of compliance with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

              While we may be critical of the Department’s inability to clean up our air and our water, we must remember that the real culprit is the Utah Legislature.  We’ll probably talk more about them as they meet for the 2016 session later this month.