Ozone in northern Utah hits worst levels in nearly 10 years

FILE - The historic City and County Building in downtown Salt Lake City shrouded in smog. (AP Photo/Mike Stark, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Ozone levels in northern Utah’s murky air have reached their worst levels in nearly 10 years this summer.

Hot temperatures brought on by high-pressure systems have spiked the ozone levels, The Salt Lake Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/2uXJUO7 ).

Bo Call, who oversees air-quality monitoring for the Utah Division of Air Quality, said the last time the Wasatch Front saw levels this high was in 2008.

“If you don’t have sun, you don’t have so much ozone,” Call said. “And this year, there aren’t a whole lot of late afternoon clouds. In the last several years, we’ve had quite a few late afternoon thunder boomers. You might get a drop of rain, you might get nothing, but that cloud cover blocks the sun and turns off the ozone production.”

Ozone is a secondary pollutant, meaning it’s not emitted directly by one source or another. It forms in the atmosphere when sunlight causes other chemicals to react with one another.

Ozone burns lung tissue when inhaled.

Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality, said air monitors in northern Utah have exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard for ozone 13-14 times this summer.

The state, however, has not yet begun work on a plan for reducing ozone pollution, Bird said. He said that’s because the Environmental Protection Agency has delayed declaring new nonattainment areas. Prior to that delay, multiple Utah counties were on track to become nonattainment areas due to elevated ozone concentrations.

Because of the poor air conditions this year, Utah will likely be required to develop a strict implementation plan when nonattainment declarations are made in 2018, Bird said.

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