EPA award supports air quality monitoring on Salt Lake’s West Side

Monitoring program tracks air quality using instrumentation mounted on electric buses.

 The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah), a local environmental policy nonprofit, has been awarded $200,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency under its Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Cooperative Agreement Program  (EJCPS) to extend an air quality mapping program in Salt Lake County to include an environmental justice element. HEAL is excited to become a partner of the larger E-Bus Air Quality Mapping Project with Salt Lake County, Utah Transit Authority (UTA), the University of Utah and the Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ.) 

​​“Past research has shown that communities living on the West Side of the Salt Lake Valley, where a majority of freeways, industrial sources, the international airport, railroads and other large emission sources are located, are exposed to higher levels of air pollution than communities on the East Side,” said Daniel Mendoza, research assistant professor of Atmospheric Sciences and adjunct assistant professor of Pulmonary Medicine and City & Metropolitan Planning at the U. “This effect is compounded by the lower elevation of the West Side where pollutants can pool, particularly during atmospheric inversion events.”

In recent years, HEAL Utah has worked with communities on the West Side to strategize effective policy in resolving disproportionate air quality issues that many face within their community. With this new program titled “Combatting East-West Disparities in Air Pollution Exposure through Civic Engagement” (CAPECE), HEAL plans to build off of the current E-bus air monitor program to collect real-time comparative data, educate and involve residents of West Side cities in addressing local air quality inequities and encourage the creation of policy to address equitable air quality. 

“We are coming into this program as an ally in environmental justice,” said Lexi Tuddenham, HEAL Utah’s Executive Director. “This new program’s real-time data collection on harmful pollutants will empower grassroots leaders with the tools and information they need to actively advocate and engage in environmental policy to find pathways to cleaner air. It is an important step towards addressing the environmental inequities we know exist throughout the Salt Lake Valley, and putting affected communities in the driver’s seat to protect their own health and futures.” 

The CAPECE project will add air quality monitors on an electric bus that passes through West Side cities like West Valley and Glendale. This same system will also be installed on a bus that passes through East Side cities, serving as the control route and comparison data set. This program aims to create better neighborhood-level air quality data to understand the unequal share of our air quality pollution. 

“This project offers an opportunity for neighborhoods like Glendale to have a healthier future with better transportation options,” said Turner C. Bitton, chairman of the Glendale Neighborhood Council. “The data collected through this project, coupled with the civic engagement goals of HEAL Utah, offer a pathway to environmental justice that communities like Glendale need. The health of the Glendale neighborhood depends on high-quality information and robust opportunities for residents to engage with civic leaders and institutions,” 

“I’m grateful for HEAL’s constant commitment to our community and environment,” Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said. “This environmental justice work is a great fit with Salt Lake County’s and our partners’ electric bus air monitoring program to obtain more equitable air quality data so that all residents can be healthier.”

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