EPA applauds air quality improvement in Franklin County

Cache Valley farm in the spring. Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

PRESTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has officially declared that the Franklin County portion of Cache Valley now meets Clean Air Act standards for fine particulate pollution.

Officials of the federal Environmental Protection Agency have given Franklin County a clean bill of Health for fine particulate pollution.

Franklin County had been considered a non-attainment area since 2009, along with Cache County to the south.

EPA officials gave the city of Logan and the Cache County a clean bill of health for fine particulate pollution in early May. With the recent announcement about Franklin County, the entire area of Cache Valley is now considered to be in compliance with federal air quality standards for PM 2.5 pollution.

“Cache Valley residents are breathing cleaner and healthier air thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, its partners and the community,” according to Michelle Pirzadeh, the acting regional administrator for the EPA. “This milestone was earned by many and reflects years of hard work to reduce emissions of this harmful pollutant.”

PM 2.5 pollution are fine airborne particles that are usually residue from hydrocarbon emissions.

Recent scientific studies have linked exposure to particulate matter pollution to serious health problems including premature death from heart and lung disease, non-fatal heart attacks and increased incidents of respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

Federal officials view all of Cache Valley as a single airshed including the town of Preston and parts of Franklin County to the north and the city of Logan and Cache County to the south.

That entire area was designated as a non-attainment area by the EPA more than a decade ago because of winter weather inversions during which PM 2.5 pollution levels could become dangerously high.

Jess Byrne, the director of the Idaho DEQ, explains that his agency has been working with Franklin County residents, local businesses and the Cache Valley Airshed Advisory Group to reduce harmful particle pollution from woodstoves, motor vehicles and road dust.

Those efforts have included a woodstove change-out program; establishment of commuter bus service; home weatherization programs; and improvement of road salt and sanding operations in the winter.

“We all know air pollution does not stop at the state border,” Byrne emphasizes. “Thanks to years of coordination with Franklin County, the Bear River Health Department and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, we are now seeing significant air quality improvements in the communities we serve.”

EPA officials explain that PM 2.5 pollution is made up of tiny particles about one-thirtieth the size of a human hair. These particles can be emitted directly from road dust or smoke from wood fires. Most often, however, those particles form as the result of exhaust emissions from automobiles and other sources.

Byrne added that Franklin County residents can check on current air quality in their communities by accessing an online map at https://airquality.deq.idaho.gov/home/map.

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