A Utah County plan to reduce particulate pollution will serve as a model for counties throughout Utah, though some state Bureau of Air Quality officials consider the plan too strict.
"We intend to use this as a basic model in the other counties," said Montie Keller, bureau technical evaluation manager. He said county residents should familiarize themselves with the plan, developed by the PM10 subcommittee of the Utah County Commission on Clean Air, because its proposals could become mandatory a year from now.But a written response to the plan from Joan Thalmann, bureau environmental health specialist, says the plan is too strict.
"We believe some of the options presented go too far and may alienate the public; others are not technologically feasible as in the case of requiring certification of fireplaces; and many of the options would be almost impossible to enforce," she said in a memorandum presented Friday to the county clean air commission.
County Commissioner Brent Morris, chairman of the PM10 subcommittee, calls that assessment unfortunate, especially in light of recent action by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA in September rejected as inadequate the bureau's plan for reducing PM10, particulate matter 10 microns or smaller that can penetrate the respiratory tract and cause health problems. The state has been granted an extension of one year to develop an acceptable plan.
"If anything, the federal EPA came out and stated that the state's (plan) as presented was unacceptable," Morris said.
"For them to say it's difficult to get public approval (of the local commission's plan) is a disservice. It says the local subcommittee has gone too far. But the EPA's response says they (the bureau) haven't gone far enough. I think that letter was done in haste and doesn't represent what their goals are."
Burnell Cordner, Bureau of Air Quality director, agreed.
"I didn't even see the memo until after it went down" to the county's clean air commission meeting, he said. "I thought it was just a talking paper they (Keller and bureau planning manager Bob Dalley) were going to use. I don't think what the county is doing is too strict. I would like to see them do everything they can do."
Even then, Cordner said, Utah County still may fall short of achieving sufficient reductions. The only problem Cordner sees with the plan is difficulty in calculating PM10 reductions from the proposed regulations.
Meanwhile, bureau officials encourage county residents to start thinking about proposed regulations such as a residential coal-burning ban, restrictions on agricultural burning, construction regulations requiring EPA-approved wood stoves and fireplace inserts, and a mandatory no-burn period during thermal inversions.
The bureau recommends a less stringent mandatory no-burn policy than the local plan. If county residents are restricted from using wood-burning stoves for much more than 20 days a year, public support for the plan will be lost, Keller said.
"We don't want to cry wolf so often that people won't comply," Cordner said. "Enforcement will probably be a fairly big issue."
The local plan allows some exemptions from the no-burn requirement. Nevertheless, "There's no such thing as a clean wood-burning stove. That's the bottom line. There ought to be some encouragement not to use them," said bureau official David Kopta.
Eventually, wood-burning stoves may have to be outlawed altogether, said clean air commission Chairman Kerry Romesburg.