EPA: Franklin County, Idaho attains Clean Air Act standards for fine particle pollution
Milestone in Idaho’s air quality improvement efforts
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today redesignated Franklin County, Idaho as “attainment” for the Clean Air Act fine particulate matter National Ambient Air Quality Standard. The area has been a nonattainment area for fine particulates since 2009. Today EPA also approved the state’s maintenance plan showing how the area will continue to comply with the PM2.5 standards through 2031.
After years of successful air quality improvement efforts in southeastern Idaho's Cache Valley, EPA has determined that the area now meets the Clean Air Act health-based standards for fine particle pollution, or PM2.5. Cache Valley residents can check current air quality in the community at Idaho DEQ’s Real-Time Air Monitoring map online. EPA’s Region 8, which includes the state of Utah, has also recently redesignated the Utah portion of the Logan, Utah-Idaho nonattainment area to attainment for fine particulate standards.
Michelle Pirzadeh, EPA Acting Regional Administrator: “Cache Valley residents are breathing cleaner and healthier air thanks to the hard work and dedication of Idaho DEQ, its partners, and the community. This milestone was earned by many and reflects years of hard work to reduce emissions of this harmful pollutant. We commend our state and local partners on the achievement and look forward to continued progress in protecting clean air for Idaho’s communities.”
Jess Byrne, Idaho DEQ Director: “We are very proud of our work with the Cache Valley community, and today’s announcement is a testament to the strong regional partnerships we’ve developed over the years. We all know air pollution does not stop at the state border, and thanks to years of coordination with Franklin County, Idaho, the Bear River Health Department, and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, we are seeing significant air quality improvements in the communities we serve. I look forward to continuing these efforts to protect air quality for all residents.”
The Cache Valley airshed includes the town of Preston and parts of Franklin County, Idaho as well as the city of Logan and parts of Cache County, Utah. The Cache Valley encompasses a bowl-shaped valley that experiences wintertime weather inversions that trap cold air and pollutants near the ground, resulting in poor air quality that can last many days. In 2009, EPA designated this cross-border airshed as nonattainment for PM2.5. This meant the air quality in this area was not meeting the agency’s standard of an average of 35 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5 or less in a 24-hour period.
To improve air quality in Cache Valley, Idaho DEQ has been working with the community, local businesses, and the Cache Valley Airshed Advisory Group, to reduce harmful particle pollution from woodstoves, motor vehicles, and road dust, in the valley, including: a woodstove change-out program; Preston, Idaho to Logan, Utah Commuter Bus Service; home weatherization; reducing road dust by improving winter road salt and sanding operations by Franklin County and City of Preston; and community outreach and education.
These efforts proved successful and, in 2018, EPA determined that the area met the PM2.5 NAAQS based on 2015-2017 air quality monitoring data. In December 2019, Idaho DEQ submitted a Maintenance Plan and Redesignation Request for the Idaho portion of the Cache Valley nonattainment area to EPA. EPA proposed to approve this request in February 2021. EPA Region 8 also proposed to approve Utah’s request to redesignate the Utah portion of the nonattainment area to attainment and maintenance plan in February 2021, and finalized that action on May 12, 2021(EPA Region 8 news release).
Scientific studies have repeatedly linked exposure to particulate matter with serious human health problems including premature death in people with heart and lung disease; nonfatal heart attacks; and increased hospital admissions and doctor and emergency room visits for respiratory and cardiovascular disease. PM2.5 are tiny particles approximately 1/30th the size of a human hair. Fine particles can be emitted directly from a source, such as dust from roads or smoke from wood fires, but most particles form in the atmosphere as a result of complex reactions of chemicals such as nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds emitted from automobiles and other sources. For more information about particulate matter, visit: www.epa.gov/particulate-matter-pm-basics.
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EPA’s Region 10 serves communities in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and 271 Tribal Nations. Learn more about EPA’s work in the Pacific Northwest at: www.epa.gov/epa-region-10-pacific-northwest.