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Cache Valley’s air quality? Noddaproblum; just move along now

January 28th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By Bryan Dixon
Guest commentary

I’ve been struggling for words to describe Tuesday’s presentation from the Bear River Health Department to the Cache County Council on air quality in Cache County, and the council´s response. I´ve settled on “embarrassing.” Admittedly, the first words that came to mind were somewhat less charitable.

In the original notice I sent to the Econet group about the meeting I said, “It just might take your breath away” and it certainly did.

Lloyd Berentzen, BRHD director, and Jill Parker, Twittermadam, stood before the council to say:

1. The air quality problem is only a problem if you look at it when it´s a problem. If you just look at it when it´s not a problem, it isn´t a problem.

2. We were working on this problem, but the problem is that the state and federal government meddled in our affairs and took away any opportunity for locals to work on the problem. They are modeling air quality and said they´d have a report on the problem in 2012, but there´s a problem with the modeling, so the problem is that they might not do anything about the problem until long after that, which isn´t really a problem.

3. When we were working on the problem, we made some effort to alert folks when the air quality was a problem and we encouraged them to reduce their driving to help the problem, but the problem was that only 2-3 percent of them paid any attention to the problem and that wasn´t enough to solve the problem.

4. We have a beautiful valley (when you can see it) but the problem is that the national news people only report on us when we have an air quality problem. That problem only happens for 12-13 days a year (on average, the record is 18 days in 2004). If those national news people would just pay attention to all those other days, they wouldn´t see a problem.

5. The air quality problem is a very serious problem for asthma-afflicted individuals. That isn´t a big problem, though, because there aren´t very many of them. Mr. Berentzen can tell, however, when the air quality is a problem because the person in the next office, who suffers from asthma, has a problem talking. (Of course, that is only a problem if he thinks it´s necessary to talk. It might not be a problem if he didn´t insist on talking.)

6. The problem with the PM 2.5 problem is that these particles are so small that they cause a problem in our lungs because they get lodged there and don´t go away. That might cause a problem, but the problem is that we won´t know for awhile.

7. The Bear River Health Department works on this problem like any other health problem by asking hospitals to report problems that are special problems, such as groups of people who are throwing up or who are having other problems, such as breathing. (Of course, that might not be a problem if they didn´t insist on breathing.)

A couple of the County Council members acted on the urge to address the problem with this air quality problem. Mr. Val Potter asked what percentage the problem affected (he wasn´t very clear about the percentage of what, whom, when, where, etc.) and he opined that the problem is that perhaps we need to make it easier for people to go to a higher altitude where there isn´t a problem when there is a problem so they won´t have a problem. He wasn´t very specific about whose homes these problem-sensitive folks might use when there is a problem, or what problems that might result in.

Lynn Lemon, the County Executive, revealed a great disappointment that the national news media only report on Cache Valley when there is an air quality problem. However, he didn´t suggest that we do anything about this problem, implying that the real problem is that we don´t get much publicity. He seems to believe the old adage that there is no such thing as problematic publicity. Even publicity that we have a problem is better than no publicity. (Do you see a problem here?)

Ms. Parker then went on gaily about how people who have problems with air quality can find out about problems. They can go to the Health Department website, register on Facebook, or get a Twitter feed to let them know when there´s a problem. She didn´t mention any tool they can use to see if they´re going to have a problem later with chronic lung problems due to repetitive air quality problems. Maybe Mr. Berentzen wasn´t right, though, and these particles really aren´t a problem, especially if you die before they can kill you.

So, all in all, it was an enlightening few minutes at the Cache County Council meeting. The only problem is that it wasn´t enlightening the way many of us thought it might be. That´s the real problem.

Then, we also observed that each councilperson was using a disposable bottle of water instead of a glass or reusable bottle. But that´s a different problem. Or, maybe it´s really due to the same problem?

“Earth to Council, Earth to Council. Come in Council…”

–Bryan Dixon has lived in Cache Valley for 25 years. He is the director of Econet, a group concerned with environmental affairs in northern Utah. E-mail him to join the discussion list.

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  1. 2 Responses to “Cache Valley’s air quality? Noddaproblum; just move along now”

  2. By ted on Jan 29, 2011

    This is brilliant, Bryan. Thanks for saying what needs saying. Cache Valley as a whole–starting with its elected, appointed and self-styled leaders–have their collective heads buried in the frosty ground. Maybe that’s why they can poo-poo the miserable air quality that gets us ranked No. 1, and why any effort to curb automobile pollution or to adopt other sensible measures die such a prompt death.

  3. By Wayne on Feb 1, 2011

    It is easy to sit and write.

    What is your solution to the ‘problem’?
    Outlaw cars?
    Outlaw cows?
    Drain the marshes and Cutler backwaters?
    Cut a hole in the mountain and place a fan?
    Outlaw growth, new building?
    Outlaw people?

    Yes, there is a problem certain times of the year but what is your solution?

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