Utah County may get tough with cars that emit high levels of carbon monoxide, and a recently developed system for identifying the polluters may be just the thing to get the job done.

Provo Mayor Joe Jenkins suggested a joint venture by Utah County entities to look into a system developed by a chemistry professor at the University of Denver. Donald H. Stedman uses a remote sensing device to measure carbon monoxide emissions from passing vehicles. A video system gets a picture of the car and license plate, along with the measurement of carbon monoxide emissions.Jenkins said the program can be tested for seven days in Utah County for about $45,000. Orem Mayor Blaine Willis, County Commissioner Gary Herbert and other members of a committee called together Thursday by Jenkins to address air-quality problems agreed to have Jenkins find out more about a possible test in the area.

"Utah County has violated clean-air standards for carbon monoxide seven times in the past two weeks," Jenkins told the committee, adding that Utah County has the worst carbon monoxide problem in Utah. Most of the violations were just above the standard at 9 parts per million, but the level once reached 13 parts per million, he said.

"Parts per million" refers to the number of carbon monoxide atoms compared with the number of atoms in the air. The high concentrations of carbon monoxide were measured at the monitor on University Avenue between 200 and 300 North.

Calvin Bartholomew, a Brigham Young University professor of chemical engineering, said figures from 1985 attribute 64 percent of carbon monoxide to cars.

Of special significance to air-quality problems is that about 10 percent of the cars produce 50 percent of the pollution. "I like the idea of hitting the 10 percent," said Bartholomew.

Use of the carbon monoxide sensing equipment in downtown Chicago and Denver showed that 8 percent of the cars are "gross polluters," contributing half the carbon monoxide in the air.

The first big step taken in Utah County to reduce carbon monoxide emissions may be getting the worst polluters off the road.

John Stohlton, BYU administrator and a member of the Provo Planning Commission, said some local governments buy polluting cars from their owners to get the cars off the road.

The committee addressed other ways to reduce carbon monoxide emissions. Mountain Fuel Supply Co. representative Stan Adams said converting automobiles to run on natural gas drastically reduces emissions.

Orem and Provo have converted some cars in their fleets.

Jenkins met earlier Thursday with state Bureau of Air Quality Director Burnell Cordner to discuss Utah County's air-quality problems. Jenkins learned that the Environmental Protection Agency gives a non-compliance area two years to come into compliance.

If Utah County cannot meet air-quality standards in two years, the EPA may impose regulations to bring the area into compliance with clean air laws, Jenkins said.

The committee will meet again next month to further address possible solutions to the carbon monoxide problems.


Bad-news cars

Automobiles account for 64 percent of carbon monoxide pollution.

Less than one-tenth of the cars - the "gross polluters" - account for 50 percent of that amount.