Two programs aimed at reducing polluted air along the Wasatch Front begin today.
A ban on use of wood-burning fireplaces and stoves on high-pollution days takes effect in Salt Lake County, most of Utah County and portions of Davis County. The purpose of the program is to reduce fine particulate (PM10) pollution.An oxygenated fuel program begins in Utah County, although most gasoline stations began dispensing blended fuels a week ago. The program will reduce carbon monoxide pollution.
The Division of Air Quality is relying on the media to alert the public to conditions that require them to curtail or stop burning wood or coal. Only residents who use wood-burning stoves and fireplaces as their sole heating source are exempt from the ban.
The division is using a traffic light system to alert residents to pollution conditions. A green alert means pollution levels are low and wood burning is permitted.
A yellow alert means pollution levels have reached 100 micrograms and residents should voluntarily reduce or stop wood and coal burning. A red alert signals that PM10 levels have reached 120 micrograms and wood and coal burning should stop, unless a resident has an approved exemption.
The division expects 22 to 30 red alerts along the Wasatch Front this winter, based on previous years. An official at the City/County Health Department of Utah County thinks the number of ban days may be even lower."Last year there were 11 days we wouldn't have been allowed to burn," said Terry Beebe, director of air quality programs. "I think it will be similar this year."
Wood burning is the second largest source of PM10 pollution in Utah County and the third largest source of the pollution in north Salt Lake County. Fine particulates or PM10 are solid and liquid particles such as ash, dust, pollen, metals and various chemicals that measure less than 10 microns in diameter. They are small enough to be inhaled and trapped in the lungs.
Gasoline stations in Utah County stocked up on and began dispensing oxygenated fuels as early as this past Monday, according to Beebe.
Utah County is one of 39 areas in the United States required by the Clean Air Act to start oxygenated fuel programs to combat wintertime carbon monoxide problems. Carbon monoxide can exacerbate respiratory problems.
Automobiles emit 64 percent of the carbon monoxide pollution in Utah County. The oxygenated fuel program is expected to cut such emissions by as much as 20 percent.
The program got off to a bumpy start at one gas station, which received a load of 100 percent ethanol instead of a 10 percent blend.
Vehicles won't run on pure ethanol. Vehicles that gassed up at the station before the problem was identified soon conked out with vapor lock.
Some drivers assumed something was the matter with the vehicle rather than the fuel. They spent time and money trying to tune up the vehicle or took it to a mechanic.
The station's insurance company is reimbursing people who experienced problems, Beebe said.
Other than this episode, there have been no complaints or problems, according to the health department and a sampling of gas stations.
"People need to realize that for the most part they aren't going to notice any difference whatsoever," Beebe said.
Because oxygenated fuels have a cleansing effect on a vehicle's fuel system, some car owners may need to change fuel filters, according to Paul Ashton, executive director of the Utah Petroleum Retailers Association and owner of two stations in Utah County.
"The older the car is the bigger the chance there is moisture in the tank and it may need a fuel filter put on," Ashton said. "The ethanol should burn up the moisture but it also brings up dirt and grime at a faster rate."
Some owners may also notice a slight decrease in their vehicle's performance and gas mileage.
By the weekend many stations had tacked 3 cents onto the per-gallon price of gasoline to reflect the addition of MTBE or ethanol. However, prices fell at some stations despite the additives because of a drop in the price of gasoline.
"I think it won't go up more than 7 cents," said Beebe. "I think it will level out at 2 cents to 5 cents."
Let's make this perfectly clear
The new ban on wood-burning stoves and fireplaces has several components:
- The ban on high-pollution days applies to you if you live in Salt Lake County, Utah County north of the southernmost border of Payson and east of U-68 and in Davis County south of the southernmost border of Kaysville.
- Residents of these areas who depend on a wood-burning stove or fireplace as their sole source of heat are exempt from the ban, provided they are approved by the Division of Air Quality.
- The Division of Air Quality estimates a ban will be triggered on 22 to 30 days this winter along the Wasatch Front.
- Residents who violate the ban may be fined $25 to $299.
- To find out what pollution conditions are, watch for the color-coded alert system on television weather broadcasts, listings in local newspapers or call the division's air quality hotline at 373-9560 in Utah County and in Salt Lake County.
- All gasoline stations in Utah County are required to dispense oxygenated fuels, gasoline blended with either methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) or ethanol from Nov. 1 to Feb. 29. - The Division of Air Quality expects the price of gas to increase 3 cents to 7 cents per gallon.