SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Department of Environmental Quality released their annual environmental report this week, summarizing their work in 2016.
The DEQ’s goal is to take real values and turn them into action to protect the health of Utah’s residents and the economic prosperity of the state.
One positive development cited in the report took place in the Uintah basin, where the DEQ partnered with the oil and gas industry, the Bingham Research Center and the tri-county health department. The DEQ deployed new, innovative technology at work sites across the basin.
"We're able to go out and detect leaks in the oil and gas production process, and get those leaks fixed,” said Alan Matheson, Executive Director for the Utah DEQ. “That does a lot for the air quality out there."
Another big challenge for the DEQ in the summer of 2016 was the development of algal blooms at Utah Lake, Schofield Reservoir, and other bodies of water. The bacteria and toxins in the green algal blooms are harmful to people and pets.
"We had folks working around the clock to make sure that we understood where those issues were, how we can address them, and to make sure that the public was aware of potential hazards and could protect themselves,” Matheson said.
The DEQ helped oversee the clean up of contaminated sites as well in 2016.
"One example is Centro Civico Mexicano,” Matheson said.
Years of industrial and commercial use left 4,000 yards of contaminated soil. A $200,000 EPA "brownfields" grant, which was matched by Salt Lake County, made the project possible.
“We were helping them clean up the site and turn it into affordable housing for seniors and a civic center that will really be a gem in the community,” Matheson said.
Despite the challenges we face, Matheson says every little bit helps.
“In our daily lives, the decisions we make either improve or can create problems in the environment,” Matheson said. “We need to make good decisions so that we can ensure that we've got great quality of life here, and the best air, land and water in the country."
The Utah DEQ also completed another $44.6 million in construction projects to ensure safe, clean drinking water for Utah residents.