Monday, May 2, 2016

Ride an eBike and Feel Superhuman

By: Chamonix Larsen

May is Bike Month, and DEQ is celebrating by inviting guest bloggers to share their thoughts on choosing bicycles as an environmentally friendly form of transportation. We appreciate their insights and the opportunity to broaden the conversation with others in our community.

Do you ever dream you can fly? Do you dream that you can play the piano like Emily Bear or shoot 3’s like Stephen Curry? Do you dream to be a superhuman? That is what it is like to ride a pedal-assist, electrified bicycle. But we didn’t go to all the trouble to write a grant and create a whole new electric-bicycle component to the State Fleet Motor Pool just to enhance state employees’ self-ego, albeit a perceived side effect. We did it to improve the air.

This spring, the State of Utah Division of Fleet Operations began a pilot to save energy, fuel, parking fees, and time, as well as improve health. The program will increase the activeness of employees and give employees a zero-tailpipe-emissions solution to getting around the Salt Lake City area, all while wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase. Capitol Hill employees are able to go to and check out a bicycle with a pedal-assisted electric motor, a technology that senses when a rider needs extra power, such as when riding up Capitol Hill. Employees can reserve the bikes, much like they would a motor pool vehicle, to travel to meetings and events in the downtown area and back to the Capitol again. The bikes can also be taken to other agencies so that employees off the Hill can experience what it is like to ride an electric bicycle.

“We are looking for solutions to clean air and lower costs. The Hill is a great place to pilot electric bikes in our fleet and implement practical, low-emitting transportation. Bicycles can also help employees get around downtown with less parking hassle or cost than in a car,” said Jeff Mottishaw, director of the State of Utah Division of Fleet Operations.

Photo credit: Gwen Springmeyer
The pilot is funded through a partnership grant from UCAIR, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping improve air quality in Utah. The funds support strategies the state is working on to help lead in efforts to reduce emissions from work-related travel and to identify best practices that can be used to improve air quality. If the program has a positive result, the goal would be to expand it to other agencies.

I realize every trip will not be taken on a bicycle. But everything that changes the world starts somewhere. While attending the Utah Government OPS workshop last year, a speaker advised that if you want to change people’s perception, you should engage them in new or different experiences. I am hopeful the experiences employees have using the bicycles will increase clean air choices and a healthier Utah. Is it wrong that – for a change – the right thing to do is so fun?

Interested in expanding eBikes to state campuses? Contact me and let’s talk. May is also a good time to try one and walk to appointments during the Governor’s fitness challenge encouraging state employees to become Workout Warrior by registering to compete for a chance to win a $50 gift card to Sports Authority. The top three state agencies with the greatest participation will be recognized at the PEHP Healthy Utah Wellness Council Conference on June 23, 2016.

Chamonix Larsen was appointed the State of Utah Resource Stewardship Coordinator in Fall 2014. Her role is to help state entities share best practices that improve the State’s positive impact on resources, with a specific focus on practices that affect the airshed in Utah.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Lead in Utah Water: Separating Fact from Fiction

By: Emily Frary

Water-sampling bottles
Lead has been in the news a lot lately. It began with reports about the high levels of lead in Flint’s drinking water. Pretty soon, word spread about other cities that were facing similar problems. A few weeks ago, a report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed lead exceedances in 16 Utah water systems.

Is lead a problem in Utah drinking water, too? Thankfully, the majority of our water systems provide hard water that tends to coat the internal surfaces of the plumbing and provides a protective layer against the corrosion that can cause lead to leach from older fixtures or the solder that connects the piping in homes.

Lead in drinking water

Lead is often found in the plumbing and solder in older homes. When water sits stagnant, the lead from the piping can leach into water sources. Most of the lead in household water comes from the plumbing in the home or service line and not from the local water supply. However, it is the responsibility of the water system to ensure that they are providing non-corrosive water to the homes. Switching from a non-corrosive to a corrosive water source led to the problems in Flint, Michigan. Fortunately, most of the water in Utah is non-corrosive.

EPA report on lead exceedances in Utah

The EPA recently requested information from DEQ’s Division of Drinking Water (DDW) regarding specific systems with historical lead exceedances. These data had some problems, including:
  • Invalid sampling sites
  • Data entry errors
  • Database calculating errors
Systems are deemed to be in compliance with the Lead and Copper Rule if the 90th percentile of all their sample results meet or are below EPA’s action level (AL). If the action level of 0.015 mg/L for lead is exceeded, the system needs to take action.

The chart below lists the 10 systems that were either included in EPA’s report or have been mentioned at one time or another in the media that do not have a current or valid lead exceedance. Specific data problems are noted for each system. It is important to remember that all these systems are in compliance.

Updates on systems with exceedances

There were six systems in Utah with recent lead exceedances. Five are currently taking action. 

Garland City
The city was required to take 10 samples in 2015. Out of these 10, two samples exceeded the EPA action level of 0.015 mg/L. These two samples were taken at vacant homes. The houses are now occupied and have been retested, with the new lead results below the action level. The water system has completed their first round of increased sampling and will continue to do more sampling.

Park Valley School
The school conducted five lead and copper samples in 2013, with one sample exceeding the action level. This sample was taken from a seldom-used custodial closet. The school has since flushed the tap in the custodial closet and collected various samples around the school, with lead results coming back low. It is fair to say that the custodial tap is not representative of what the students would be drinking. The system will continue to conduct increased monitoring.

Proper sampling procedures ensure accurate results
La Sal School
The school had one lead sample in 2015 that exceeded the action level. This sample was taken from a locked storage room that had not been used in more than two weeks. The students do not have access to this room. La Sal School has distributed public education materials about lead and has even removed the piping that serviced the tap with the exceedance. The water system has taken follow-up samples that came in below the action level.

Roy City
The city had five out of 30 samples come back with elevated levels of lead. Since then, Roy City has taken up to three follow-up samples at every high sample site and at their water sources and have been unable to recreate those high sample results. Roy City is continuing to conduct follow-up sampling, but does not have a confirmed exceedance. Roy has reevaluated its sample site plan to ensure that it is testing the highest-risk homes.

Liberty Pipeline Company
The water company has naturally corrosive water and has installed treatment in the past to compensate for this. The system has worked with outside agencies for technical assistance and to conduct follow-up sampling. Liberty Pipeline will continue to conduct increased monitoring. The company has been very proactive in taking samples in any homes that are considered high risk.

Cedar Ridge Distribution Company
The company has been placed on a corrosion control schedule and has received a violation for failing to submit a treatment recommendation to the division. DDW is not aware of any steps the system has taken in response to their 2013 lead exceedance.

What can you do to protect yourself?

The best step for reducing your exposure to lead in drinking water is to flush your taps after long periods of non-use, such as first thing in the morning, when you get home from work, or after a vacation. The longer the water sits in the pipes, the higher the potential for lead leaching into the drinking water. Flushing the tap will draw out all the water that has been sitting stagnant in the piping and potentially collecting lead.

Want to know more? Every community water system can provide you with an annual Consumer Confidence Report (CCR or Water Quality Report). The report lists all detected contaminants including lead. The number of sites above the action level is included as well as health information regarding lead. This is a great report to turn to as it contains system-specific information about drinking water.

DDW staff is here to provide you with information about lead and copper in drinking water. We even have an expert who has done extensive academic research on lead and copper in drinking water. Please contact us at 801-536-4200 with any additional questions or concerns. Additionally, the DDW website contains a list of frequently asked questions for lead, lab information, and a summary of all water systems’ 90th percentile results.

I have been the Lead and Copper Rule Manager at the Division of Drinking Water for six months. After growing up in Provo, I converted to a fan of the University of Utah, where I received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with an emphasis in materials science. I hope to continue my education. Outside of the office, I enjoy camping, weekend vacations, and spending time with my family.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What’s Earth Day? Why Should We Care?

By Donna Kemp Spangler and Amy Christensen

It’s the time of year when people from all over the world hold events to celebrate environmental protection and reflect on the importance of our natural environment. Some of us remember its beginnings and decades later have witnessed the growing popularity and importance of such a day, while others are still learning its significance. Amy Christensen, deputy director of communications at the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, talked to students at Olympus Junior High School who are learning from their science teacher, Joanne Brown, how to “think globally,” and “act locally.” Here’s some of what they had to say. Watch, and then test your knowledge of Earth Day. 

What is Earth Day?
A. A day to celebrate space exploration
B. A day created to raise awareness of the environment
C.  day dedicated to planting trees

    When was the first Earth Day?
    A. 1802
    B. 1999
    C. 1970

    What book helped launch the modern environmental movement?
    A. Refuge
    B. Silent Spring
    C. The Spectator Bird

    What U.S. federal program was introduced in 1980 to clean up abandoned toxic and hazardous waste sites?
    A. Superfund
    B. Environmental Planning and Historic Preservation
    C. Clean Water Act

    Which of the following legislative actions occurred following the first Earth Day?
    A. Clean Air Act
    B. Clear Water Act
    C. All of the above

    When was the Utah Department of Environmental Quality established?
    A. 1990
    B. 2002
    C. 1975

    How much of Utah’s air pollution come from motor vehicles, like cars and trucks?
    A. 80%
    B. 20%
    C. 48%

    Which of the following help reduce air pollution?
    A. Drive less
    B. Energy efficient light bulbs
    C. All of the above

    What are the three "R's" of waste management?
    A. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
    B. Redeem, Return, and Relocate
    C. Remove, Refuse, and Refrain

    What was Utah’s first national park?
    A. Liberty
    B. Zion
    C. Canyonlands

    Answers: 1. B. 2. C. 3. B. 4. A. 5. C. 6. A. 7. C. 8. C. 9. A. 10. B.

    How well did you do? Here at DEQ we celebrate Earth Day every day. I encourage everyone to learn more about us by visiting us on social media and our Web site.

    Donna Spangler is the Communications Director for DEQ and a former reporter for the Deseret News. Donna writes a monthly blog post. You can read her previous blog posts at You can follow her on Twitter @deqdonna

    Amy Christensen is the Deputy Director of Communications for DEQ. She is a public relations and marketing professional who oversees DEQ’s brand management and communications strategy.