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Stormy winter chases away Wasatch Front inversions

Tree limbs snapped by snow from a spring storm litter the Capitol grounds in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 29, 2019.
FILE - Tree limbs snapped by snow from a spring storm litter the Capitol grounds in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 29, 2019.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — It wasn't just Utah's mountains that benefited from an active storm pattern over the winter, but residents' lungs also got a break from the prolonged temperature inversions that normally trap air pollution along the valley floors.

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality said the almost weekly storms between November and March scrubbed the air of pollution and kept those lengthy inversions at bay.

"We had a really good winter," said Bo Call, manager of the air monitoring section for the Utah Division of Air Quality. Officials consider March 31 the end of the inversion season.

"For the most part, we had good values across the network."

Call said the Smithfield monitoring site in Cache Valley logged four days that exceeded the federal threshold for levels of PM2.5, or fine particulate pollution, while all other monitoring stations only had instances of one threshold exceedances.

Regulators also believe there are more vehicles on the road incorporating the cleaner burning Tier 3 technology that reduces emissions and more people are riding transit.

Numbers provided by the Utah Transit Authority show overall ridership increased by about 11,000 from November into February in 2018-19 compared to the same time period in 2017-18.

The agency is also stepping up its investment in electric vehicle infrastructure, selecting 18 government entities to receive funding for charging projects as part of the $35 million Volkswagen clean diesel settlement.

Recipients are: Saratoga Springs, Clinton, Davis Technical College, Kamas, Kaysville, Murray City Power, Orem, Price, Provo, Salt Lake County Health Department, Sandy, South Salt Lake, Timpanogos Cave National Monument, Utah Department of Transportation, Utah Division of Facilities Construction and Management, Utah Valley University, Weber State University and West Valley City.

Those entities will receive 11 percent of the settlement money designed to mitigate excess nitrogen oxides.

The department plans to award the remaining settlement money to government-owned vehicle/engine replacement projects for the local freight trucks, shuttle buses, transit buses and school buses later this spring.