‘Ideal situation for pollutants’: Cache Co. program to reduce winter air pollution

Local News
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LOGAN, Utah (ABC4) – The Utah Department of Environmental Air Quality, is inviting homeowners in Cache County to make a change that will help improve air quality by participating in the Wood Stove and Fireplace Conversion Assistance Program.

For homeowners with wood stoves or fireplaces, the program is an opportunity to help reduce wintertime pollution caused by wood burning.

Alana Brophy, Chief Meteorologist for ABC4, says the inversion in Cache Valley “sets up quickly because Cache Valley is nestled between the Wellsville Mountains and Bear River Mountain Range, which allows a layer of warm air to settle into the valley and act as a lid as it caps the colder air below it. Until a storm comes through, the cold air and pollution can’t escape.”

According to the Utah Department of Environmental Air Quality, the Wood Stove and Fireplace Conversion Assistance Program will issue 79 awards to eligible Cache County homeowners starting Monday, Feb. 1. There will also be financial incentives to help residents convert their fireplace or wood stove into natural gas, propane-fueled, or electric appliance. 

To be eligible, applicants must be the legal owner of the home (commercial and rental properties are not eligible), have fireplaces or wood stoves that must be used for a significant amount of home heating, gas fireplaces (with or without gas logs) are not eligible.

See the graph below to see if your home qualifies:

“We are excited to offer Cache County residents the chance to help clear the air in their homes and communities by participating in our wood stove exchange,” says Joel Karmazyn, wood stove exchange program manager and environmental scientist with DAQ. 

“Smoke from wood stoves is a significant source of pollution that causes winter inversions. By converting your stove or fireplace, you are helping improve air quality in Cache County,” Karmazyn adds.

The program was developed by the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Division of Air Quality and is targeted to counties that experience poor wintertime air quality. 

Adam Carroll, Meteorologist for ABC4, says the air quality in Cache Valley is unique due to its basin-like geography. “With mountains surrounding the majority of the valley, it becomes an ideal situation for pollutants to become suspended above the surface with the colder air being trapped underneath. When an inversion develops, air quality suffers. It takes a strong storm to provide enough mixing within the atmosphere to shake things up and allow for pollutants to escape, improving air quality.” 

According to the Utah Department of Environmental Air Quality, wood-burning stoves can produce up to 150 tons of pollution over the life of a stove. 

Air quality is not the only concern this winter in Utah. Due to little snow, Utah is experiencing an unprecedented drought that we haven’t seen nor felt since drought monitoring began in 1999.

Though Utah’s mountains have received some snow this year, Utah’s snowpack numbers are bleak and well below normal. 

According to Carroll, the snowpack is one of the primary variables that helps improve a drought but also provides the necessary water in our lakes and reservoirs to get us through another dry summer season.

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