Winter inversions and pollution

Photo by E P Kosmicki

A lead story on the front page of the Salt Lake Tribune last week emphasized the need to reduce pollution along the Wasatch Front, and its relation to the winter inversions here. It points out that “Valley inversions can’t be prevented. But residents can reduce the level of pollution they trap.” We have had about three weeks of an inversion, typical for winter here in the valley. With the climate crisis now, however, we are seeing less winter storms and snow to break up the inversions.

Projects like the inland port, a new rail spur to support a “satellite port” in Tooele, dredging Utah Lake and building artificial islands, and opening an enormous open pit mine in Parley’s Canyon, bring tens of thousands more trucks into the Valley per day. Increased pollution from trucks and trains, combined with increased dust pollution from the shrinking Great Salt Lake, gets trapped in our air and brings a slew of health consequences for valley residents. What we really don’t want is for Utah residents to get accustomed to, and therefore indifferent to, persistent pollution. While the inversion is natural- pollution is not. It’s unhealthy, shortens life expectancy, and we shouldn’t consider it acceptable or inevitable.

The Salt Lake Tribune breaks down where the air pollution trapped by inversions originates. “Transportation emissions account for about 48 percent of PM2.5 pollution in a local inversion event, according to the Department of Environmental Quality. That includes emissions from vehicles, planes, trains, and other mobile sources.

Smaller, stationary sources like wood burning and home heating account for 39 percent of PM2.5 emissions during a typical inversion event. Emissions from larger industrial facilities account for about 13 percent.”

We have a state legislature wrapped up in real estate development, and blind to the environmental and health consequences of these absurd, projects. UPHE is fighting every one of them to try and preserve a reasonable quality of life in Utah. As we follow the legislative session and bills progress, we will keep you updated on how you can contact your Legislators and tell them how you feel about the bills that will affect our future, for better or for worse.

In the meantime we remind you that UTA is free for the month of February! Using UTA services this month may not only improve our air quality now, but could help pass H.B. 164, reducing emissions long term.

Read the Tribune article here.