Environmental justice report shows air quality disparities on Salt Lake City’s west side

The EPA is conducting an environmental justice study in Salt Lake as a result of concerns raised by UPHE, community members and other organizations. The preliminary report issued by the EPA reveals just what we suspected; pollution has a significant and “disproportionate” impact on multiple neighborhoods on Salt Lake City’s west side. These neighborhoods, including Westpointe, Jordan Meadows, Poplar Grove, Glendale, Fairpark, and Rose Park, experience heightened pollution and associated health risks due to their proximity to I-15, Salt Lake City International Airport, and major railways. 

The air quality issues faced by these west side communities are pressing. Increased exposure to air pollution also means increased risk of the health consequences associated with pollution. With this study, we have a real chance at addressing the issues as long as the public stays involved in the process and continues pushing for real change in the way industries operate in these neighborhoods. 

EPA  Region 8 Administrator, KC Becker, at the presentation of the preliminary report

The EPA report underscores that Salt Lake County has failed to meet regulatory standards for various pollutants, such as eight-hour ozone, particulate matter 2.5, and sulfur dioxide, as per the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Residents in these affected neighborhoods are burdened with higher rates of asthma, increased cancer risks, and reduced life expectancies compared to their counterparts on the city’s east side.

To say we were disappointed the EPA report does not include projections for the inland port’s impact is an understatement. UPHE has been pushing for a Human Health Risk Assessment to be done on the Port’s impact since the conception of the idea. It will undoubtedly add to the main pollution sources in the area which include manufacturing, vehicle emissions, and construction activities. 

The EPA report serves as a baseline to inform officials at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality about the communities’ challenges, and is able to offer incentives for cleaning up the air, but  the agency’s actual control over emissions is limited. This is where we need the state government to step up to protect the health of residents over the profits of large polluting businesses. 

There were a handful of local legislators at the EPA’s presentation of their preliminary report who encouraged residents to stay involved in the process. 

Find KSL’s coverage of the EPA presentation here.